Spreading the Love with Henry

The holidays!  Whatever your relationship may be, love or dread them, they seem to take over more and more of our time every year.  This period, for many high stress, is now beginning as early as august if you follow the lead of the retailers.  By the time we welcome the new year I think my head will burst if made to hear one more Jingle Bells.  Not to sound like Scrooge, but I do think it is overkill.  With that in mind, I try to simplify and wrap my head around the true meaning.  That can be different things for different people, but for me, it is all about love.  This year I was off the hook for Christmas dinner so I suggested to my eleven year old grandson and budding chef, Henry, that we take charge of desserts since his parents were cooking .  Delighted, he arrived on Christmas eve day, fully equipped with his tools, to make Tres Leches Cake and my mother’s family recipe for Lemon Sponge Pie.  The cake is something I have wanted to try to make and when I learned Henry and his family had never eaten it before, it was a new adventure for us all.  If it didn’t turn out, I figured there is always store-bought.  The pie was something my mother always made for Christmas when I was young so I decided to throw that in as well.  They were both well received, especially when Henry topped them with a mountain of whipped cream.  What’s not to love, right?

After spending a wonderful day together creating these culinary delights, we were proud to serve them up for the family.  I didn’t have a recipe for the cake in my arsenal so we chose one from The Food Network (link above) and were pleased with the outcome, especially since it was a virgin run.  The pie, however, has been in my family for generations and I have made it many times.

Here is how it goes down.

MOTHER’S LEMON SPONGE PIE          Makes 1 (9-inch pie)

5 T flour

1 c sugar

2 egg yolks

2 T melted butter

Grated rind and juice of one lemon

Beat above ingredients at medium speed for 3 minutes.

Add 1 cup milk

Fold in beaten egg whites (previously beaten in small bowl).

Bake in raw crust 40 minutes at 350 degrees.  Pie is done when top is light golden brown.

Top with whipped cream and berries, if desired.

If you are a lover of lemon, you will love this pie.  What makes it unique is its texture.  Yes, it is a pie, but the filling more resembles a sponge cake.When I described it to Henry he said, “Sounds good.  Confusing, but good.”  It proved to be Henry’s favorite of the two.  I also added a twist to it this year.  Mother always made hers in a regular pie crust but I decided to try making a ginger snap crust.  I made it with crushed ginger snap cookies and melted butter just like a graham cracker crust.  I pre-baked it for 5 minutes and let it cool.  This is a very simple preparation but it packs a giant lemony flavor which I felt balanced nicely with the ginger.  Be careful when folding in the egg whites so as not to deflate.  It is the air in them that makes it light and fluffy.

Having had so much fun, we decided to make another kitchen date the following week.  This time our goal was to make something savory.  Thinking again about family recipes, I decided on Chicken Cacciatore using a recipe I developed over the years.  This stewed chicken was something my grandmother made and served over polenta, so passing it along allowed me to also share stories of my childhood and experiences growing up.  Talk about spreading the love.  My heart was bursting with all the past memories and those I know we were making as we shared lessons and time in the kitchen.  I might also mention Henry’s pride as he provided dinner for his entire family.  He is quite a guy!

We are one week into 2017 and facing a year that may prove difficult for many.  I am working hard to focus on what is closest to me that brings joy into my life.  Kids in the kitchen is a perfect way for me to do this and I am so fortunate to have grandchildren who also enjoy the experience.  Thank you, Henry, for your time and interest.  I believe I experienced the true meaning of the holiday season and received the best gift of all.  Wishing all of you a wonderful new year.   Whether sweet or savory, please keep spreading the love, one dish at a time.  I thank you for your readership and comments and send you my love and hope that we all have good things in our lives to be grateful for.  Jeanne

Zesty Cranberry Salsa

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Many years ago I went to a holiday party and one of the guests brought chips and salsa, but with a twist.  The base of the dip was cranberry as opposed to the traditional tomato.  I loved it and set out to develop my own cranberry creation which has endured for a very long time and adopted by many as a family favorite.  My daughter makes this every year for Thanksgiving in place of the traditional sauce and it is always met with great enthusiam.  You can use fresh or frozen berries making it a year round treat.

At my last class, Holiday Appetizers, I didn’t feature this recipe but spoke of it and was asked to put it up on my blog.  For those who are waiting for it, I apologize for not getting it up before Thanksgiving but I was just so busy I didn’t get around to making it and taking photos until this week.  It is still cranberry season so no worries, take it to your next party.

Here is how it goes down.

ZESTY CRANBERRY SALSA

Recipe by Jeanne Raffetto Tentis

12 oz. fresh cranberries

1 plump clove garlic (or to taste)

1-2 jalapeno peppers

4 Tablespoons fresh cilantro, finely chopped

3 scallions, minced

1/3c freshly squeezed lime juice (approx.3 limes)

1/2c sugar (I usually cut this in half)

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

  1. Boil cranberries for 1 minute in 1 quart of water.  Drain well.
  2. Mince or press the garlic.  Seed and mince the jalapeno.  Combine with chopped cilantro, scallions, and cranberries in a medium bowl.  Using your hands, mix well squeezing some of the cranberries to pulp and leaving some whole for texture. 
  3. Add the lime juice, sugar, salt and pepper.  Add additional amounts of these ingredients if necessary, tasting as you go along, until you reach the perfect combination of sweet, sour and spicy.
  4. Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled with white and/or blue corn chips.  Makes a great party dip for the Fourth of July or during the holidays!

This can be made a day ahead but scallions and cilantro should be added right before serving.  Refrigerate for storage but allow to sit out and come to room temperature for maximum flavor.

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Thanksgiving has come and gone but I am trying to hold on to the  focus of gratitude for all the blessings I have and those who love me and I am privleged to love in return.  We hosted the holiday this year with all the traditional fixings.  We gave thanks and an continued on with an abundance of good food, lively conversation, a spirited game of Wildlife Bingo followed by a very special dessert.  I challenged our 11 year old grandson to wow us with something amazing and he didn’t disappoint.  What he presented was a beautifully crafted “Buche de Noel” or a Yule Log Cake complete with handmade merringue mushrooms.  Quite impressive!  Made of sponge cake, it resembles an actual Yule log, in the form of sweet roulade served traditionally near Christmas especially in Belgium, France, Lebanon, Quebec and several former French colonies.  Quite an undertaking, Henry did us proud –AGAIN!!!!!!

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I hope you all enjoyed your Thanksgiving and had the opportunity to spend it with loved ones.  We are experiencing our first snowfall of the season today, setting the stage for the nostalgic and covetted White Christmas.  Throughout the craziness of the holidays, remember to take a moment to reflect on what brings joy to your life and whether it is family recipes or something new, this is the perfect time of year to spread the love, one dish and cherished memory at a time.  Until next time, I send love from my kitchen to yours.  Jeanne

 

Sweet Potato, Carrot & Coconut Soup

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The first frost made its way to our area a couple off nights ago so, after enjoying a long and unseasonable Autumn, it was time to say goodbye to the garden.  I guess that officially makes it soup season here in Wisconsin.  Although I enjoy eating and making soups year round, I find it most satisfying when cold weather comfort is needed.  This recipe and accompanying article, published in Madison Magazine, November 2016, caught my eye because of its use of warm and vibrant spices and seasonal produce.  It screamed Thanksgiving to me so I decided to test it out.  I must say, it did not disappoint and will most definitely be making an appearance on my holiday table.

I do not always make soup for this occasion as there is such  an abundance of food, but my dear friend taught me a few years ago that serving a small portion to get the meal started helps facilitate getting the group seated and settled before the main attraction.  It also gives us time to offer thanks for all of our blessings and reflect on the gratitude we feel for those we love and are fortunate to have in our lives.

Here is how it went down.

SWEET POTATO, CARROT & COCONUT SOUP

Recipe by Annaliese Eberle

2T coconut oil or olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

4t chopped fresh ginger

1 large sweet potato, peeled & cut into 1 1/2” pieces

4-5 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1” slices

1t sea salt or more, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2t yellow curry powder

1t coriander

1t garam masala (or 1/8t grated nutmeg and 1/4t cinnamon)

1/4t turmeric

1/4t smoked paprika

1/8-1/4t cayenne pepper

4c vegetable or chicken stock

1/2 of one 15oz. can full fat coconut milk, plus more for topping

Toasted sunflower, pumpkin seeds, baked chickpeas and whole grain bread

  1. Heat oil in a large pot on medium heat.  Add onion, garlic, ginger, sweet potato and carrots, season with a good pinch of sea salt and pepper.  Cook 5-7 minutes on medium-high, or until onions start to get tender and veggies begin to brown.  Add the spices and cook another 1-2 minutes.   Add stock, cover with lid.  Cook until veggies are tender.
  2. Transfer to a blender (or use an immersion blender directly in the soup pot off the burner), and blend.  Be safe while blending hot liquids, and puree in batches, of necessary.  Add the coconut milk, taste and adjust seasonings if needed, and blend again until smooth.
  3. Serve with extra coconut milk and cayenne on top, along with toasted nuts/seeds, crispy chickpeas and whole-grain bread or pita.

Bonus:  If you are in a time crunch, or are thinking ahead, this soup freezes beautifully for up to two months and can also be made in double or triple batches increasing the ingredients accordingly.

As stated in her article, Ms Eberle, suggests using the best possible produce and spices (preferably local) that you can get your hands on.  I agree totally and think this applies to procuring ingredients for any recipe.

Both carrot and sweet potato have a natural sweetness as does onion, which perfectly balance the assertiveness of the spices.  The creaminess of the coconut milk adds not just to the flavor but also to the silkiness of the texture giving it great mouth feel.

Because I cannot help myself, I admit to making a few changes.  First of all, I used homemade chicken stock as my base, instead of her recommended vegetable, but either would do fine.  I also changed the timing of adding the spices.  She added hers after the vegetables were cooked and blended but I chose to add them to the vegetables before adding the stock to allow them to bloom and fully incorporate their flavors. This was simply a personal preference, you can decide what makes you happy.  I highly advise not skipping the garnishes as they add just a nice crunch, a bit of heat and another punch of the delicious coconut.  Admittedly, I left out the crispy chickpeas because I didn’t have any, but I do think they would be a lovely addition.  For the suggested whole wheat bread, I chose to toast it rather dark and crumble it on top along with the other garnishes.  The result was fabulous!

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I hope you find this as comforting as I did and perhaps add it to your Thanksgiving menu.  I will report back on how it was received at my house.  Regardless, it would be a great addition to your cold-weather recipe collection and a delicious way to spread the love, one dish at a time.  Until next time, I send warmth and love to you from my kitchen.  Let’s all be kind to each other,  Jeanne

Celebrate the season!squash

 

 

Cheese Pecan Crisps

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With the passing of Halloween, we find ourselves in the thick of the holiday season.  With that comes entertaining, parties and the need for new and interesting recipes.  Today I am featuring one that I found in the most recent Penzeys Spice Catalog that arrived this week in the mail.  Often I recycle the deluge of catalogs that arrive this time of year without even perusing them but I am a big fan of the fresh spices carried by this company, so this is one a set aside to check out.  We are fortunate to have two Penzeys Spice stores in our area, but if that does not apply to you, you can order them online.  Their publication is always full of great stories and recipes submitted by their customers and many times they offer coupons for free products.  If you are not familiar, I urge you to check it out.

That said, I am always in search of innovative appetizer recipes to add to my collection.  The reason being that finger foods are one of my favorite ways to entertain and I always offer an appetizer class before Thanksgiving for my students.  It seems everyone wants to serve or bring something that will wow the guests at upcoming gatherings.  Since my state of Wisconsin is known as America’s Dairyland, these bites featuring cheddar and butter seemed like they would be a big hit.  What’s not to love, right?  You might be thinking they are a bit indulgent but I found these crisps a welcome change from many of the sweet holiday offerings and because they pack a punch of flavor I was satisfied not eating an overabundance.

Here is how it went down in my kitchen.

CHEESE PECAN CRISPS               Yield 6 doz.

Recipe featured in Penzeys Spice Catalog November 2016

1/2c unsalted butter (1 stick, softened)

1 lb. extra sharp cheddar cheese, finely grated (or 1/2 lb. extra sharp & 1/2 lb. sharp)

2c flour

1t salt

1/4-1/2 t cayenne pepper

1/4 t Hungarian-Style Sweet Paprika

1c finely chopped pecans

  1. In a large bowl, combine the butter and cheese.
  2. in a second bowl, sift together the flour, salt and spices.  Add to the cheese mixture and mix well using your hands or food processor on low.  If mixture is too dry, microwave for 15 seconds at a time to soften the butter.
  3. Add the pecans and mix well.  Divide the dough into three parts and roll into logs, pressing with your hands to help it hold together.  Wrap in waxed paper and refrigerate overnight, or at least 4 hours, until firm.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a cookie sheets with cooking spray.  Place a piece of parchment paper on the sheets and then turn them over so the parchment is greased.
  5. Slice the logs into about 6 dozen slices, about 1/4 inch thick, and place on pans. 
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes until set and golden.  Remove from the pans to a cooling rack while still warm.

These would serve nicely as an offering on a cheese platter or as a replacement. Although I ate them plain, I think they could be dressed up a bit served with fig or apricot jam.  The addition of the cayenne pepper gave them depth without offering too much heat (I added just 1/4t).  You could adjust that to your taste, but I thought they were perfect as is.  The sharp cheddar was also a good choice as it paired nicely with the nuttiness and crunch of the pecans.  I think one could substitute whatever nuts you like, unless there are nut allergies to consider, then you might want to substitute sesame or sunflower seeds.  The catalog suggested caraway seed for added texture and said they were a “must have” at any party. I know they will be making many appearances at my house.

We celebrated Halloween this week, and as is tradition, this meant preparing dinner for a young family we know who make a point of dining with us after trick or treat.  Since costumes and characters change, I never know who will be showing up at our door.  This year it was Katy Perry and The Dementor.  Regardless of who it ends up to be in any given year, love always abounds as we sit at the table, share stories and break bread together.

The next time I visit you we will have a new president-elect.  It my hope that despite the outcome, we can come together as citizens of this great country, promote peace on earth and keep spreading the love, one dish at a time.  Until next time, I send love from my kitchen to yours.  Jeanne

 

Jeanne’s Mushroom Soup w/ Madeira

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During a recent dark and dreary day, I was inspired to transform the ever expanding bone garden in my freezer to delicious, rich and flavorful chicken stock.  The freezer harbored five packages of various chicken parts, carcasses, discarded herbs and vegetables awaiting their purpose.  It was time for the large stock pot to resurface after its summer vacation and go to work.  After a long simmer and the addition of a few other ingredients, 6 1/2 quarts of liquid gold was produced.  Just thinking of the possibilities for their future made the wheels of my creative spirit go into overdrive.

The chill in the air reminded me that soup season had arrived so I was further inspired to develop today’s featured recipe, Mushroom Soup w/ Madeira.  I checked my produce drawers and found fresh crimini begging for a purpose and a lovely package of dried wild mushrooms took up residence in my pantry.  The liquor cabinet held a bottle of Madeira wine and the herb garden had ample thyme, so off I went.  If you are unfamiliar with Madeira (muh-DEER-uh), it is a distinctive fortified wine, named after the Portuguese-owned island where it is made.  It can range in color from pale blond to deep tawny and runs the gamut from quite dry to very sweet.  The American-made Madeiras cannot compare with the Portuguese originals but they are a fraction of the price and make a perfectly fine cooking wine.  If you are not so inclined to purchase this wine, you could substitute sherry.

There are thousands of varieties of the fleshy fungus, but we are most familiar with the cultivated ones readily available in our markets.  I used crimini for the fresh, also called baby portabellos or brown button.  I think they are more flavorful than their cousins, the white button, but you could use any type you like.  It is the more exotic wild varieties that most excite my palate such as, chanterelle, enoki, morel, wood ear and shiitake.  This is why I chose the a variety pack of the dried to develop the earthy, rich flavor of the base and saving the fresh more for texture.

Here is how it went down in my kitchen.

JEANNE’S MUSHROOM SOUP w/ MADEIRA WINE    4-6 Servings

Recipe by Jeanne Raffetto Tentis

1.5-2.0 oz. dried wild mushrooms

10 oz fresh crimini mushrooms

2T unsalted butter

2T extra virgin olive oil +1T for later

2 large shallots, halved and sliced thin (or 1 small onion)

3 cloves fresh garlic, minced

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

4 oz. Madeira wine

4c unsalted chicken stock or vegetable stock for vegetarian

1 fresh thyme bundle

1/2c heavy cream

Juice of one half fresh lemon or to taste

  1. Rinse the dried mushrooms and place in a heat proof bowl.  Add 4c of boiling water and allow to reconstitute for about 30 minutes or until softened. Carefully remove the mushrooms, coarsely chop and set aside.  Strain the liquid through a fine sieve lined in cheese cloth to remove any sand.  Reserve the liquid.
  2. Trim the fresh mushrooms removing the stems and discarding the very ends. Trim and chop the the remainder of the stems and reserve.  Slice the mushroom caps about 1/4-inch thick.  Set aside.
  3. Melt 2T in a large heavy bottom soup pot, add 2T of the olive oil. Add the sliced mushroom caps and cook until they are softened and begin to release their liquid.  Remove the caps from the pan and set aside.
  4. Heat the additional 1T of olive oil and add the shallots.  cook until softened and add the minced garlic.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
  5. Add the chopped mushroom stems and chopped reconstituted dried mushrooms.  Cook for 2 minutes.  Deglaze the pan with the Madiera wine and cook until reduced to half.
  6. Add 3c of the reserved mushroom soaking water and the chicken stock.
  7. Tie a bundle of thyme and add to the pot.  Bring to boil and reduce to simmer.  Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed.  Allow to simmer for about 30 minutes.
  8. Remove the thyme bundle and puree the soup until very smooth.
  9. Before serving, add the heavy cream and allow to cook gently until thickened a bit.  Add the reserved mushroom caps and cook until heated through.  Add a bit of lemon juice.  Taste and adjust seasoning and lemon, if needed.

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If you share my enthusiasm for mushrooms, I feel confident you will enjoy the earthiness of this soup, provided by the fungi, paired with a hint of sweetness contributed by the Madeira, and the herbaceous notes given freely by the fresh thyme.  The lemon juice at the end gives it a bright boost of acidity to balance it all out.

Making soup is the perfect time to experiment and let your pantry do the talking.  I would love to hear about your favorite creations.  Whatever they may be, soup provides comfort and is a delicious way to spread the love, one dish at a time.

Tomorrow is Halloween and I am spreading the love with a dinner of Chunky Chocolate Chili and Classic Caesar Salad.

Wishing you all a happy celebration and urge you to please, have fun, be safe and remember to:

“Eat, Drink and be Scary”

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Sisters

 

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L-R Joan, Margie, Jeanne, Christine

Isadora Duncan is quoted as saying,

“A sister is a gift to the heart, a friend to the spirit, a golden thread to the meaning of life.”

I have been blessed with three such gifts and my heart is full as I share a recent story with you.  We are separated by many miles and the there are 15 years separating the oldest from the youngest, but one would never know when you witness us together laughing, telling stories and picking up where we left off.  Our husbands often remark that they can’t figure out why we never run out of things to talk about.  It is not unusual for phone calls and conversations to last for a couple of hours.  We all know before deciding to call, we must have an abundance of free time.  I believe it is our shared history that binds us and having experienced our youth at various times in history, we have both common and varied stories.  All of my siblings still reside in Pennsylvania, our home state, so that is where most family get togethers take place. Although I haven’t lived there myself for over 40 years and my parents and childhood home are long gone, a trip there always feels like coming home.  During this visit I was fortunate to spend several days with my sisters, one of whom asked if I would teach them one of our mother and grandmother’s traditions, making ravioli.  The oldest of the four was in possession of the original ravioli machine and accoutrements used by our family and we had all witnessed the process, I was the only one of us that had ever made them.  I was delighted to show them what I had learned over the years.  Thinking back, I am not sure what was more fun, making them or eating them but we glided through the process talking, laughing and reminiscing.  Everyone at the dinner table seemed to enjoy the fruits of our labor as we gobled up the little pillows dressed in my homemade tomato sauce.

My older sister, Margie, has been talking about purchasing a food processor for quite some time so since that is the method I use to make the dough, we used this opportunity to go shopping.  We discussed the pros and cons of the different models and returned home machine in hand.  I consider this piece of equipment essential in my kitchen so I know she will be pleased as it gets more use.  I believe my mother and grandmother mixed their dough by hand but the food processor method is one I learned from a book called Pasta Tecnica by Pasquale Bruno, Jr.  I quickly ordered them each a copy when I returned home.  Can’t wait for them to share their knowledge and experiences with the younger generations.

Hanging in some of our kitchens is a photo my sister, Christine, took during college for a photography class.  It show only the hands of our mother and grandmother (left) as they made their way through this process.  We all agreed we wanted to try and duplicate this with just our hands (right).  Her is how it turned out.  Wouldn’t it be fun to shoot it again with our offspring?  I think I feel another family tradition brewing.

Around the family table.

All in all, I returned home knowing I assisted in making lasting memories and reminded that my heart is full because of the love I have known my entire life.  I cherish all of the memories I share with my siblings and pray they live on after we are gone.  Our parents gave us the best gift of all by teaching us the importance of spreading the love, one dish at a time.  I urge you to take the time to do the same for those you hold closest in your heart.  It is a gift that keeps on giving.  Sending my love to all of you,  Jeanne

“Sisters function as safety nets in a chaotic world simply by being there for each other.”            Carol Saline

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Hot and Sour Soup

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To my faithful readers, I know it has been a while since I have posted but the extreme heat and flurry of the summer’s activities, both good and bad, has left me feeling uninspired and void of creative spirit.  I decided rather than force the issue I would use the time for reflection, rest and healing much like a fallow field left unplowed and unseeded while it rejuvenates.

That said, we recently had a brief period where the weather felt like Autumn and my upcoming soup classes in the near future served as inspiration to develop a new recipe.  I am sure I have mentioned how much I love, love, love making soups.  There are always the stories that accompany each creation telling of its origin, the inspiration and creative process which delight me.  Here’s my story.  I have been thinking for sometime now that I should develop a recipe for my husband’s favorite Chinese soup, that is how it started.  Next I was talking to my BFF and she was describing what was on the menu as she prepared for having a dinner guest.  Turns out her first course was Hot & Sour Soup so I requested the recipe.  Having it in hand, I printed out several other recipes to compare and see how I could make it a bit simpler so it would appeal to my culinary students.  Since this soup is what my husband uses to evaluate every Chinese restaurant he visits, I was very pleased to receive high praise and accolades.  It was a huge hit!

 

Here is how it went down.

HOT & SOUR SOUP                    Serves 4-6

Recipe by Jeanne Raffetto Tentis

4 dried Chinese mushrooms such as, wood ear

6 oz cremini mushrooms or white button

2T neutral cooking oil such as, grape seed

1- piece of fresh ginger root, peeled and grated

1T sambal oelek (red chili paste),reduce if you want less heat

1/4 c naturally brewed soy sauce

3T rice vinegar

1T sweetened black vinegar (or 4T of just the rice vinegar)

1t sea salt

1t freshly ground black pepper

1 pinch of sugar

2 quarts chicken or vegetable stock infused with Asian flavors (see recipe below)

8oz. firm tofu, drained and cut into thin strips (about 1/4-inch)

2T corn starch mixed with 1/4c water (if you prefer a thicker soup, use 3T of the corn starch)

1 large egg, lightly beaten

4 scallions (mostly green parts with some white), sliced thin

1/2c cilantro leaves for garnish (optional)

  1. Reconstitute wood ears by soaking them in boiling water for 30 minutes.  Drain and cut into thin slices, discarding any hard spots.
  2. Trim the bottoms of the fresh mushroom stems and slice thick, about 1/4 inch.
  3. Heat the oil in a heavy soup pot over medium high heat.  Add the ginger, sambal oelelek and both mushrooms.  Stir to incorporate the flavors and cook for about one minute.  Combine the soy sauce, vinegar(s), salt, pepper and sugar in a small bowl.  Whisk to dissolve the sugar and salt.
  4. Pour the soy sauce mixture into the pot and toss with the mushrooms.  Cook for a minute or two and add the stock.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. Add the tofu and continue cooking for 3 minutes.  Add the corn starch slurry and continue to simmer until soup is thickened to your liking.
  6. Remove the soup from the heat and using a whisk swirl the soup in one direction until you create a whirlpool.  Slowly add the beaten egg in a steady stream to the center.  The egg will cook almost instantly. Serve hot garnished with the scallions and cilantro, of using.

ASIAN INFUSED STOCK  Makes 2 quarts

2 quarts + 1c of chicken or vegetable stock (homemade or commercial will do)

1 medium onion, quartered

4 cloves of fresh garlic, smashed

3-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and smashed

1t whole black pepper corns

Bring the stock and remaining ingredients to a boil in a large pot.  Lower the heat and simmer for an hour.  If time permits, remove from heat and allow to steep for another hour.  Strain through a fine sieve or strainer lined with cheese cloth.  Chill if not using immediately.

Can be made several days ahead and stored in refrigerator.

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Although I used homemade chicken stock, it is not necessary and if you want it vegetarian, use vegetable stock and if vegan, skip the egg.  Making the stock ahead is great as it is there when you need it.  The remainder of the process comes together quickly.  I chose to make mine without meat but pork is often seen in this preparation as is chicken.  Make it your own.

I must say I have missed you and it feels very good to be back.  I hope your summer has been filled with the things that make you most happy and that you made some memories by spreading the love, one dish at a time. For those returning to school, I wish you a most successful year as you move on with your journey.  Until next time, sending love from my kitchen to yours.  JeanneIMG_1003

Creating Memories—Lifelong Connections

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Family time should always be about teaching lessons that will sustain us through life and creating memories and  cherished traditions.  I fondly recall the summertime visits I spent at my grandparents house, inquiring about times past, learning family recipes that I still make today and often making mischief with my cousins.  These experiences are the highlight of my youth so when I assumed the role of “Nonna,”it became my mission to provide this for my grandchildren.  When they were babies they were accompanied by their parents, but as they grew old enough to fly unaccompanied, independent visits have found their place in the scenario.  This year was a combination of the two as my teenage granddaughter arrived alone and then was joined a week later by her mother and younger brother.  The first arrival came by plane while the following travelers braved the two-day train ride from California to Illinois reporting it was an exciting adventure they would repeat if given the chance.

Let me first share the time alone with our granddaughter.  This was the second summer she embarked on a solo sojourn and she arrived with a desired to-do list that included a revisit to the local Amish community, a beauty treatment day, complete with an appointment at the salon, lunch and a pedicure, time at the lake with cousins, shopping and of course doing some cooking.  Since clam chowder is one of her favorites, we made that her first full day.  She does not eat pork or beef so my recipe, which includes bacon, was not an option.  After researching we decided on a recipe by Dave Lieberman that turned out very satisfying.

The week went by quickly and soon it was time for our Amtrak station pick-up. Looking no worse for the wear, Mom and son arrived with stories of the people they met on the train, the beauty of the Rocky Mountains and the activities they shared to pass the time.  Also with a to-do list which included fishing with grandpa, celebrating big sister’s birthday, time with cousins, swimming in the pool and movies.  He was delighted to see we own a ukulele as he had taken lessons at school this year and this interest resulted in a duet with him on strings and grandpa on the trumpet playing “Over the Rainbow”.  Quite adorable to see this 9-year-old playing with his gramps and both of them really digging the scene. My daughter requested an appointment with my hair stylist, Marie at Love+Light salon, as well and decided to coordinate with our neighbor for some horse riding lessons for the kids.  Since July is festival season here we followed the beauty treatment with lunch and a visit to a local festival happening in Madison.

Also on the agenda was baking a cake for her girl’s birthday and a family sit-down for a traditional Italian meal that would not be complete without a family favorite, Homemade Tomato Sauce.   Paired with pasta and other sides, it did not disappoint and was followed by a dessert of, made from scratch, Root Beer Float Cake topped with icing made from vanilla ice cream and bearing 14 candles.  The recipe is featured in this months Cuisine at Home magazine.  Fortunately the timing was such that we got to dine al fresco before getting slammed by the current massive heat wave.

Our neighbor, Cailyn Schave, is an accomplished equestrian and operates a horse training business called Orchard View Training.  She agreed to lessons for the kids and they were thrilled.  We are so fortunate to know her and be able to tap her as a resource.  Thanks, Cailyn for fitting us in.

We tearfully said farewell at the airport as the time passed with great speed and we quickly ran out of time for some of the things we thought we might be able to squeeze in.  I guess we will have a carry over list for next year.  They all went home together hopefully holding these shared memories in the hearts forever.  Hearing comments about how much fun they had and how Wisconsin is so “cool” made me think I had accomplished my goals. We spent the time together spreading the love, one dish and one experience at a time.  I hope all of you are enjoying your summer and finding your way to spread the love and make those lifelong connections with those you hold dear. Sending my love and wishes for peace to you. Jeanne

Snap Peas w/ Garlic Confit & Dill Vinaigrette

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We all know the saying, “If life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” but what to do when life gives you an abundance of fresh herbs?  Look for as many ways to utilize and preserve these pops of freshness, flavor and color as you can.  Right?  I have a lengthy history of growing and cooking with herbs but always welcome new recipes and ways to take advantage of their presence during our short but fertile growing season.  Professional chefs use herbs in abundance, but for many, their use may seem a bit intimidating.  There are many valuable tips on the subject available online so I won’t duplicate, but I will share a recent recipe I discovered and also another use that has delighted me as of late, herb bouquets.  That’s right, a bouquet that looks beautiful, has a sweet and pleasant aroma, gorgeous textures and is completely edible. It is a great way to give your plants a frequent trim so they remain full throughout the season.  Keep one near your workstation as a reminder that a bit of freshness is exactly what is needed for those seasonal dishes currently on your menu. I like to add a few flowers (edible of course) to mine for a colorful visual, my favorite being nasturtiums.  They are bright and both the leaves and flowers, bearing a bit of a peppery flavor, can be consumed.  They have had a presence in my garden for many years and I consider them an annual “must have.”

I discovered the featured recipe while perusing my cooking magazines.  It appealed to me because of its use of fresh dill, mint and green garlic.  If you cannot find green garlic, which is the young plant harvested early before the bulb is formed, regular garlic (be sure to use less as it is spicier and more intense) or garlic scapes can be used.  Scapes are the curly shoots from the plant that form later in the season as it matures.  This is what I used as green garlic is harvested earlier and no longer available here.

Here is how it goes down.

SNAP PEAS with GREEN GARLIC CONFIT & DILL VINAIGRETTE

Serves 6-8

Recipe by Jeremiah Stone & Fabian Von Hauske (featured on the cover of Food & Wine Magazine, July 2016)

2 stalks of green garlic, trimmed and thinly sliced crosswise (I used garlic scapes but I believe regular garlic would also work)

1c extra-virgin olive oil

1/4c fresh lemon juice

1/4c chopped dill

Kosher salt and black pepper

1 1/2 lbs. sugar snap peas, trimmed, some chopped and some left whole

6 white button mushrooms, halved and sliced thin lengthwise

1/4c torn mint or small mint leaves

  1. In a small saucepan, combine the garlic and olive oil and bring to a simmer.  Cook over low heat until the garlic is very tender, about 10 minutes.
  2. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool completely.  Strain the oil into a small bowl.
  3. Transfer the green garlic to a medium bowl.  Add the lemon juice, dill and slowly whisk in the oil until well blended.  Season with salt and pepper.
  4. In a bowl, toss the snap peas with 3/4 cup of the vinaigrette.
  5. Transfer to a platter and scatter the mushrooms on top.  Garnish with the mint and serve with the remaining vinaigrette.

Make ahead:  The vinaigrette can be made and refrigerated for 2 days.

I really enjoyed eating this and found it simple to make.  The spiciness of the garlic infused oil, paired with the grassiness of the dill and bright acidity of the lemon made a very flavorful dressing that I plan to use on future creations.  Then you have the winning combination of the sweet and crunchy snap peas, earthy mushrooms and just a pop of fresh mint.  Delicious and the epitome of seasonal freshness, this gorgeous dish has definitely found a permanent place in my recipe file.

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As we celebrate the Fourth of July, I hope we can all take a moment to reflect on our forefathers and their vision for the United States and its people.  Much has changed over the years, but one thing that must remain is the principle of equal opportunity for all.  This holiday, centered around family, food and fireworks, is the perfect time to give thanks for all we have and to spread the love, one dish at a time.  I will be taking a couple of weeks off from writing the blog to spend time with my daughter and her children.  Our visits usually serve as fodder for good stories and time in the kitchen.  Until next time, be safe.  Sending love from my kitchen to yours.  Jeanne

 

 

 

Jeanne’s Bourbon Balsamic BBQ Sauce

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Today is set aside to honor all the good fathers that are in our lives.  Mine is passed, as is the father of my children, yet we take a few minutes during this day to remember the times when our lives intersected and offered up both the trying times and those cherished moments we hold most dear.  One trait both these men shared was a deep sense of compassion for those less fortunate, those in need.  I have written about how my father always made sure that anyone who came to our door hungry went away with a full stomach.  He held a strong belief that his family would always be fed if he paid it forward.  My children’s father devoted his career advocating for people with disabilities to ensure their voices were heard.  They both left their legacy and we, who were touched by their presence, are richer for it.

With all dads and families in mind, I chose today to feature my newest creation to enhance the backyard BBQ which has grown, not just as a favorite summer activity, but a huge year-round industry.  Grills have not only increased in popularity but also in capability.  What was once an item pulled out of the garage once or twice a summer for burgers and dogs, the grills on the market today can smoke an entire pig, rotisserie whole turkeys and chickens, roast a leg of lamb or pork shoulder and much more.  As a child I never remember grilled vegetables as the common occurence they are today.  Nothing is spared the heat as we experiment with everything from grilled salads, pizza and fruits.  That said, the flavor enhancers, such a BBQ sauces and condiments have stepped into the spotlight as well.  With this in mind, I was inspired to play with the sauce recipe I developed a few years back and elevate it to new heights.

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Here is how it went down in my back yard kitchen this weekend.

JEANNE’S BOURBON BALSAMIC BBQ SAUCE         Makes about 2c

1 shallot, diced fine (or small onion)

¼ c neutral oil, such as, grape seed oil

1 large clove garlic, minced

1/3 c aged balsamic vinegar

2 T Worcestershire sauce

1 1/2 t molasses, unsulphered

½ t dry mustard

1/2 t Sriracha sauce or more to increase spiciness (or other hot sauce of choice)

½ c chili sauce

2 oz bourbon

1 t sea salt

¼ c water

  1. Sauté onions in the oil until soft.  Add garlic and cook until softened but not brown.
  2. Add the vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, molasses, mustard, Sriracha, chili sauce, 1 1/2 oz. of the bourbon, salt and water.
  3. Stir well and simmer lightly for 25 to 30 minutes.  Add the remaining 1/2 oz. bourbon, stir and taste.  Adjust salt and Sriracha, if needed.

Use on chicken, beef, pork, tofu or vegetables.

**Can be made up to a week in advance.  Keep refrigerated.

This combination of ingredients, in my opinion, has it all.  The balsamic is both sweet and tangy, a touch of heat is offered by the Sriracha, Worcestershire contributes to the saltiness and depth while the addition of the bourbon, during the cooking and then right at the end, gives the gift of smoke and wood from its time aging in charred oak barrels. The beauty of this sauce is it can be used on almost anything and can be adjusted to suit the individual.  For instance, if you want it sweeter, add more molasses.  If more heat is your thing, add more hot sauce.  Get the picture?

Before going, I have a confession to make.  Outdoor grilling, and all that it entails, was my father’s least favorite thing.  He did not enjoy picnics, stating often how he ate with ants during his stint in the US Army during WWII and saw no reason to do it any longer.  He did, however, enjoy good food.  So in spite of his aversion to this popular American activity, I think he would have enjoyed the complexity of this sauce as he ate inside at the dining table, sans the insects.

I would be remiss if I did not mention another wonderful father who has deeply touched my life, my dear husband, Michael.  He dedicated his career to teaching children and enhancing their lives by nurturing their love and understanding of music.  He continues this work with both children and adults now and cheerfully serves as my culinary guinea pig.  I have been blessed to have crossed paths with many devoted fathers and for that I am grateful.  May the love you have given be returned many fold.

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My sauce graced chicken legs and thighs last night and tonight it will serve as a dressing for the beef (requested by the “dad” of the house).  I aim to please. Whether you are honoring your dad or other fathers today, keep spreading the love, one dish at a time.  I send my gratitude to all the dads that have touched my life.  Love to you from my outdoor kitchen to yours.  Jeanne