Saturday, June 25, 2011

Cocopinabananut Muffins

My inspiration to bake these muffins was twofold.   I has some speckled bananas, some very ripe pineapple and some shredded coconut that has been hanging around in the fridge for a while.  I've been watching these bananas grow more and more speckled for the last 3 days.  They were on the verge of death and I know Paul was hoping for a banana bread.  It was Saturday morning and I was doing my - let's see what we forgot to eat this week in the veggie bin drawers - clean up.  I feel less guilty nowadays if I have to chuck a piece of fruit or some sad over-ripe veggie because they go straight to my compost bin.  Nothing is a complete waste anymore.  But still, if it can be eaten, that is the preferable route.  I was taking inventory of the things I stick on the bottom shelf of the fridge door when I came across a small bag of coconut and a bag of pecans.   I felt a wave of inspiration.

It was Saturday morning and I was looking at a three day weekend.  That translates into, I have plenty of time to waste and play with my camera.  I'm still getting used to my new Nikon and I'm determined to learn to take photos using manual settings.  If I am going to rely on "auto" there was no point for my upgrade.  That gave me the second reason to bake some muffins.  I need something to shoot.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Spicy Shrimp on the Barbie

Some inspiration is not born from a long story.  Some inspiration comes from a simple idea.  Paul wanted shrimp for Father's Day dinner.  We headed to the farmer's market.
Paul eyeing Casey's Catch at the farmer's market
I was content to make the usual scampi.  Matt called his dad for Father's Day and said, "why don't you make them on the BBQ?"  (We gave Matt a grill for his birthday and he's been in BBQ mode)  Why not indeed?  I could do that.  Such an easy clean-up, and since the big guy wouldn't be doing the clean-up (it was Father's Day after all) I liked the idea.  I'm flexible.  I started scouring the pantry and fridge, then headed out to the garden in search of marinade fixins.  I didn't want boring shrimp; I wanted spice. Some Asian ingredients called to me and some fresh herbs screamed to be picked.
Maybe it was the gnomes screaming!
I started mixing and tasting, and before I knew it I had a Thai-ish tasting marinade ready to bathe some shrimp.
It was sort of evil looking
I marinated the shrimp for a little more than an hour and made a HUGE salad.  Thank you garden.  We picked up a heavenly loaf of bread at the farmer's market from Orwasher's .
Only 9:00AM and almost sold out
It was a light dinner followed by a hearty dessert.   Oh, and maybe just a little of this....

Grilled Spicy Shrimp

Serves 2-3
  • 1 pound of jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 cloves of minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons Thai red curry sauce (I used Trader Joe's)
  • 1 teaspoon sriracha
  • 1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  1. Whisk all marinade ingredients in a small bowl.  
  2. Place cleaned shrimp in a zip lock bag.  Pour marinade over shrimp.  Seal bag. Refrigerate for an hour.
  3. Heat gas grill to medium high heat.
  4. Be sure to oil the cooking surface of grill (olive oil)
  5. Thread shrimp onto skewers.
  6. Grill shrimp for 3 minutes over medium high flame.  Brush with marinade, flip, and grill another 3 minutes.
  7. Serve immediately.
It's that simple.
Just an afterthought....these shrimp would be outstanding with coconut rice and stir fried vegetables.
Oh I feel I must confess, the big guy did the dishes anyway!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Blueberry Peach Crostata, Rustic Yumminess

So, it's Father's Day.  I have to be honest and fess-up. I have an issue with Father's Day.  It's sort of bittersweet in the truest sense of the word.   I feel a bit guilty on this day.  I've always wanted to recognize Paul, and give him his "due respect" for being the father of our two children, but it has always been overshadowed with the sadness of losing my own father on this very day.  This is the 25th anniversary of my dad's passing.  Somehow this year I feel different.  Maybe it's because my mom is with him after all these years.  He is not alone anymore.  I am grateful for the time I had with my dad, and I am happy that he at least had a few short years to experience  "grandpahood".  He was such a proud grandpa!
So this year is Paul's year.  Not once did I say,"You're not my father" like I usually say.  Instead I said, "it's your day!"  Paul chose the day's activities...or lack of activities.  He chose his father's day feast menu and of course chose dessert.  I did not allow him free reign mind you, I supplied him with a list of options.  Later in the week I'll tell you about the spicy shrimp on the barbie.  Now is the time to talk dessert.  I gave Paul the option of a fruit tart or a rustic crostata.   Not ever having a crostata before, his interest was piqued.
A crostata is like a freeform pie.  You have a lot of freedom to choose fillings and spices, easy to customize to any taste.  I chose to make blueberry-peach crostata, spiced with cinnamon, ginger and a hint of nutmeg.  A blueberry inspiration after a trip to the farmer's market this morning.
A food processor makes the whole process a breeze.  You can mix the dough for the crust ahead of time, the crumb topping too.  Just roll it out and add the fruit filling shortly before dinner and your crostata will be perfect for dessert.  The crust is a basic butter pastry.  I like Ina Garten's pastry from her apple crostata.  You can use any butter pastry you like if you have a favorite.  Adjust the fruit and spice to your liking.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Strawberry Jam... Forever

Strawberry season is in full swing on Long Island.  Last week when the gang was here, we went picking.  I'm not sure if the harsh winter took its toll on the strawberry plants, or the heavy rain and extreme heat this spring was just too much, but the berries just didn't pack the same punch as they had  in  previous years.  Nevertheless, we picked.  We picked about 10 quarts in all and needless to say, we ate a lot of strawberries.  I wanted to make a small batch of jam, but we were just too busy, and it got so darn hot, and quite frankly, the berries weren't that great.  I felt sort of bad...I've always made jam after a day of picking.
My picking team:  Mike, Melissa, Matt, Lauren and Paul in the back row
Lauren, the Strawberry Princess
So now it's a week later.  The Sunday morning Rockville Centre Farmer's Market opened last week and it was on my list of "things to do" this weekend.  Heaven knows I don't need any spring vegetables since I have a bounty of my own growing in my backyard.  I wanted to see Casey the fish man.  Yes, we have fish at our farmer's market...a benefit of living on an island.  I got in my car at 8:00AM and turned the radio on....Strawberry Fields Forever.....   Suddenly, I had jam on my mind (and the Beatles).  It's cool I thought, only 58 degrees.  Perfect weather for standing over a pot of boiling jam.   I thought of this photo that I love.  Melissa took it few weeks ago while riding her bike through Central Park in Strawberry Fields...
The song, the photograph, Sunday morning with the Beatles, cool weather....its a sign.   I must make some jam.  Although I didn't pick them, I found some beautiful, delicious berries.
Last year I made Strawberry Balsamic Jam, but Paul found it objectionable.  When he saw me taking out my canning gear...he pleaded  that I not add any "stuff" to the jam.  He's a purest at heart.  So, I made some plain, old fashioned jam.  Since the berries were ever so slightly under ripe and I was adding lemon,  I  did not use pectin.  I used a bit more sugar than usual because the berries were a bit tart. You can adjust sugar to taste.   It turned out great and just I hope I don't regret only making a small batch.  Please see my previous post to learn more about the ins and outs of canning.  Now a days I like to make jam in 1/2  pint jars.  When my kids were little and I made a lot of PB and J's, I used pint or even quart jars.  You can double the recipe, but you will need a HUGE pot.  You have to allow it to boil hard and believe me, you do not want this to boil over!  Once you've made this simple jam, I swear you will never buy strawberry jam in a grocery store again.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Welcome to My Garden...Lettuce Eat Some Salad

Welcome to my garden.  Let me introduce you.
 I should really start at the beginning.  Back in April I told Paul that the only thing I wanted for our 30th Wedding Anniversary was for him to build me a square foot garden.  I had been reading about square foot gardens all winter long and was thoroughly intrigued.  I've grown herbs the past few years and last year I grew some monster tomato plants, but I hadn't had a real honest to goodness vegetable garden for a long, long time.  Having quite a bit of shade in the yard, I wanted to start small with just one or two 4x4 frames.  Paul ended up building 3 frames and I have some large containers as well filled with the sacred "Mel's Mix".  So on April 10th, Paul created my square foot garden.
He also made a compost bin for me....what a guy!  He really knows the way to my heart!
I spent the next two weeks planning my garden on graph paper.  I planned cool weather crops, succession crops, I planned and I re-planned.  I bought enough seeds to plant a few acres.  In the end, I planted some seeds but I also had to resort to planting some purchased seedlings.  I planted lettuce, arugula, peas, spinach, radish, carrot and beet seeds directly in the soil on April 23.  On May 1st, I planted some cool weather seedlings...broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts.
I had some other more tender seedlings that I planted in pots and protected them in the garage a night.
The trusty old radio flyer came in handy to wheel the tender plants in and out of the garage.
On May 8th I planted my celery, peppers, eggplant, parsley, and oregano, sage and mint.  I planted my Sweet Millions Tomatoes in whiskey barrels.   I was able to winter over my rosemary and thyme.  Tarragon has been self-sowing the past 4 years and I think my chives have been growing for 20 years...which was when I had my last vegetable garden.  I also threw some cilantro and dill seeds into some pots to have a nice variety of herbs.
This is a picture taken on May 8th of one of my tomato plants....Wait until you see it on June 7th!!!
On May 15th the harvesting began.  I was so proud of my first radish.... I have not had store-bought lettuce since and we eat a salad almost every day.
And in just one week, the first flowers appeared on my tomato plants.  I'm thinking this Mel's Mix has magical powers!