Thursday, September 30, 2010

Roasted Tomato and Garlic Sauce

I've said it before, and I'll say it again.  I like to cook with produce that is in season.  Having said that, I am sad to say that my tomato plants look as if they are giving up the ghost as I write.  Oh, they are still producing flowers and are adorned with many green tomatoes along with some slowly ripening ones, but this nasty weather we are experiencing combined with the shorter number of daylight hours is surely taking its toll.  My once beautiful behemoth plants are beginning to look, well, decrepit.  These plants were so generous and kind to us, I hate to see them go.  They have given us three solid months of tomatoes, tomatoes, and more tomatoes.  You would think I had a huge tomato patch but I only had two, yes I said two tomato plants this year, a Roma tomato and a cherry tomato.  That cherry tomato plant (sweet millions) was my pride and joy in a whiskey barrel.  It has inspired me to plan a vegetable garden over the winter and expand my horizons.  I even named her.
Her name is Audrey 2

These tomatoes were the inspiration for many a summer dish.  My intention was to post the recipes earlier, I just never seem to have enough time to write about all of them.  I'll get as many posts in as I can over the next few days just in case you have an end-of-season bumper crop and are wondering what to do with your tomatoes.  If you are fortunate enough to live in a place with a longer growing season....hooray for you!  You can eat fresh a little longer.

I simply adore roasted vegetables.  Roasting intensifies their flavor.  They caramelize and the flavor becomes deep and sweet. This sauce is not your ordinary sauce.  Try it, you'll like it!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Ricotta Cheesecake: A Fitting End to the Start of Gravy Season

What's the matter?  You never heard of gravy season?  Gravy season starts shortly after Labor Day when the temperature outside is cool enough to spend the day inside over a pot of Italian meats and sauce.  I'm not going to get into the "is it gravy or is it tomato sauce?" debate.  Paul and I are fortunate enough to have friends like Barbara and Rob who take gravy season very seriously, no debate involved.  That's why when we got an invitation to The Italian Kitchen  for the inaugural pot of gravy, I knew I had to come up with just the right dessert.  Deciding on the right dessert can be tricky.  After all, everyone would be pigging out dining on pasta covered in homemade gravy with out-of-this-world meatballs, sausage and homemade braciole,  not to mention everything we would be eating and drinking before dinner...that's a whole other story.  I wanted to make something Italian and rustic, yet I wanted to keep it light.  I decided to make this light, almost souffle-like Ricotta Cheesecake and top it off with a Strawberry-Raspberry Coulis.
Cheesecake, coulis and fresh fruit

Robert and Barbara in their swanky new kitchen
Get to work Paul!


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Apple Sauce, Plain and Simple

Apples have arrived... fresh, crisp, juicy apples.  I've been getting some early crop apples at the farmer's market since the end of August.  A few days ago those giant wooden bins, straight from the orchard, arrived at my local supermarket.  They were brimming with Macintosh, Jonamacs, Gala, Rome and Golden Delicious apples.  The season is just getting started.  I am looking forward to Empire and my favorite of all apples,  Macouns.

Apples make me feel nostalgic.  I have one of those warm and fuzzy early childhood memories of flannel shirts, seeing my breath in the morning, and feeling the warm sunshine on the side of my face through the car window as my dad and I took a drive upstate in search of apple orchards.  I have no idea where we went, but I remember feeling rebellious eating apples off the tree without washing them.

I went to college upstate New York.  I was surrounded by apple orchards.  I became the apple pie queen of my dorm.  There was a huge kitchen in the basement of the dorm with 3ovens.  Our guy friends would sneak into the orchards at night with empty pillow cases, filling them with apples, that is until one of them got shot in the butt with buckshot!  Yes, they were stealing, but we justified it because we were poor college students and was the 70's!  My roomie and I  rolled out pie crusts by the dozen.  Occasionally, I'd throw in a dutch crumb.

When my kids were young, we created more apple memories.  Our family took annual apple picking trips with friends from my son's cub scout pack that continued even after the boys lost interest in scouting.  The kids ran wild in the orchards, picked way too many apples, took hayrides, drank cider, and ate apple donuts.  The day always ended with a picnic and a cut throat game of soccer.  Yes, apples make me feel nostalgic.

I thought I would kick off the season by putting up some jars of applesauce.  If you have not done any canning you can refer to one of my earlier posts for the specifics.
Start by sterilizing  your jars.  This big pot takes awhile to get boiling...even with 2 burners.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Sneak Peek of Autumn ... Apple-Sage Stuffed Pork Chops

Earlier this week I wrote about my brother's visit to New York.  He helped us with a few projects around the house and  I owed him a home cooked meal.  I wanted to make him a dinner with a "fall flavor".  The new crop apples have arrived in the market.  Nothing says Autumn is just around the corner, more than a fresh new crop of crispy apples.  Since I was dying to make an Almond Tart for dessert, the apples would have to find their way into the main course...and they did.
Apple - Sage Stuffed Pork Chops
Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Shallots
Mashed-Baked Sweet Potatoes
Homemade Applesauce 
Almond Tart

Sunday, September 12, 2010

One Good Turn Deserves Another Almond Tart

I've been busy in the kitchen.  My brother Don was in town for a few days.  He lives in Florida and by this time of the year, he has had it with the hot weather.  Needless to say, he wanted to bottle up our cool breezy New York weather and take it back to Florida.  I appreciate it too.  Cool weather invites me into the kitchen.  I literally have hundreds of recipes bookmarked and dog-eared, waiting to be made, but when you experience one of the hottest summers on record, it is easy to put off lighting the oven, or standing over the hot stove until cooler weather prevailed. 
I owed my brother a good dinner.  You see, Paul bought a new kitchen faucet sometime last winter on an impulse buy.  It's been sitting in my basement in the box, taunting me every time I walk by.  I would nag suggest to Paul that it would be nice to actually see the faucet functioning, at least once a week for the past few months.  Knowing that this faucet installation could potentially turn into a plumbing nightmare, Paul had no intention of installing it by himself did not want to brave it alone.  Don's visit was the impetus for Paul to tackle the job; with Don's help of course, they did it.

Technically it is still summer, but the cool-ish temperatures warranted a fall-ish menu for the "good deed" dinner.  I'll get to the actual dinner in another post.  I want to start with dessert.  I chose to start with dessert because I've been dying to make this...

and didn't want this evil thing lurking around the house with just me and Paul at home.  I adore almond desserts.  Years ago, a time which I fondly refer to as "in my previous life", I lived in Santa Cruz, California..  I frequented a cafe, India Joze, that make the most delectable Mazarin Torte.  Mazarin Torte and a pot of was the stuff of which dreams are made.  I discovered this recipe for an Almond Tart that I think comes pretty darn close.

Monday, September 6, 2010

An Early Scone Season: Cranberry Almond Scones

Sunday was a beautiful dry and breezy day.  The evening was cool and delightful. So what the heck, I thought, let's brave it and not turn the air conditioner on tonight.  I am somewhat addicted to the white noise of my air conditioner.  I think my pup Sweetpea is too.  It blocks out all the random street (and air) noises that are a part of suburban living.  I usually hate the air conditioner-to-open-window transition period.  The drone of airplanes and distant trains, the sound of the newspaper delivery person's car and the "FLOP" of the paper hitting the sidewalk, not to mention the scream of a motorcycle at 2:00AM tearing down the Southern State Parkway, all drive me crazy.  Oh, and how can I forget the birds? I thought birds woke up at dawn. Not in my neighborhood!  At 3:00AM they're having a party.  If I manage to sleep through any of these annoyances, Sweetpea does not.

Much to my AMAZEMENT, it was an eerily quite night. I had a wonderful night's sleep. It was so quiet I don't even think Sweetpea woke up until the newspaper was delivered....not bad. I can't help but wonder, what happened to the birds?  And the strangest thing of all....I was cold!  Yes, it was downright chilly!  I pried myself from under the covers and headed to the kitchen  It was 53degrees outside.  I don't know what the temperature was inside the house, but since we had left several windows open, there was a definite nip in the air.  

A perfect reason to light the oven I thought.  I checked out the pantry and my eyes focused on a sack of oat flour that I picked up at the King Arthur Baker's Center in Vermont a few weeks ago.  I had some buttermilk that I wanted to use up as well.
 and then I remembered my new fluted cutters from King Arthur's...

SCONES!   ...It's a perfect morning for scones. 

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Millions of Peaches...Peaches for Me! Peach Chutney

Peaches, peaches and more peaches!  I thought this year I would make some peach preserves.  I've changed my mind however, since I made plenty of blueberry and strawberry jam earlier this summer, and I'm planning on making a truckload of apple butter this fall. I decided to change things up a bit and make some peach chutney instead.  Peach chutney?  Why peach chutney you ask?  Because I like peach chutney! It can turn a plain piece of chicken or pork chop into something special.  Sometimes I'll grill a spice rubbed pork tenderloin, slice and serve with chutney for a quick mid-week dinner. I LOVE peach chutney on a turkey burger.  As a matter of fact, I substitute my peach chutney for Major Grey's chutney when I make these  Yes, you can buy chutney in the gourmet section of the grocery store, but you will pay dearly for it.  Trader Joe's has a decent chutney, but for some reason they don't always have it in stock. Homemade is so much better. It's one of those things that you don't think you need, but if you have it on hand, an interesting meal is just minutes away. I made a smallish batch, and it should last me the year. If you haven't done any canning, you can refer to my entry
So let's get down to business and make some chutney.

Isn't That Just Peachy: Peach Blueberry Cake

When I started this blog, I fully intended to write at least one entry a week.  I've been negligent.  It's not that I haven't been cooking; far from it.  I've just been enjoying summer too much.  I have a ton of pictures and quite a few recipes that I planned on blogging about.  I've written the blogs in my head.  I usually do that when I have trouble sleeping, which is quite often.  I have to restrain myself from getting out of bed in the middle of the night and jumping on the computer.  I've learned that can be counterproductive to my sleep cycle. So my big dilemma is, where do I start?  Since I am smelling the aroma of freshly baked peach blueberry cake, I guess I will start there.