Thursday, March 22, 2018

Rosemary & Sea Salt Bread

Those of you who follow this blog on Facebook got to see this beautiful loaf of Rosemary Bread over the weekend. I still can’t believe how good it is. Considering the amount of effort, I wasn’t quite sure how it would turn out, but this is Bakery Shop quality, and I will be forever grateful to Chris at The Café Sucre Farina blog for coming up with this amazing recipe.

You have to plan ahead for this one; the dough has to be allowed to rise at room temperature for between 8 and 12 hours. I tend to keep my house a bit on the cool side, and, as such, mine took almost the entire 12, but I appreciate this recipe for that very fact. I love it when I can divide the work over the course of two days, and, I love it even more because it takes nothing more than a big bowl and a spatula.

If you like artisanal breads the way that I do, you owe it to yourself to give it a try. If you like rosemary as much as I do, you may want to up the amount used in the dough. Next time, I think I will probably use 1 ½  tablespoons of finely chopped fresh rosemary rather than just the one.
Rosemary & Sea Salt Bread
As seen on The Café Sucre Farina

4 c. bread flour
2 t. kosher salt
1 t. active dry yeast
1 T. (or perhaps more) fresh, finely chopped rosemary
2 c. room temperature tap water
1 T. melted butter, for topping
1 t. flaky sea salt (I used
Fleur de Sel), for topping
2 t. finely chopped fresh rosemary, for topping

In a medium-large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, yeast, and rosemary. Make a well in the center and add the water. Mix with a study rubber spatula or wooden spoon (I used the latter) until all flour is incorporated. Don’t worry, the dough will be wet and sticky, that’s how it should be.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave to rise at room temperature overnight, or for up to 12 hours.

The following morning (or after 8 to 12 hours), the dough will have risen. It may still look shaggy, and its surface will be covered with bubbles. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper; set aside.

Spread a generous 1/4 cup of bread flour onto a work surface. Dump dough onto the floured surface and turn it several times to coat. Knead for one minute, adding more flour to the work surface as needed

Divide the dough into two or three fairly equal portions, turning each in the flour to coat. Shape each piece into a ball, pulling edges under and pinching together to make a smooth top. Place loaves on prepared pan, smooth side up. Brush each loaf all over with melted butter, and sprinkle generously with rosemary and sea salt.

Preheat the oven to 425° F. Allow bread to rise for about 20 minutes while the oven is preheating. Transfer the pan to the oven, and bake 23 to 28 minutes or until nicely golden. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

NOTE: If making in advance, remove from oven when pale golden brown (about 3 to 4 minutes less cooking time). Cool completely, then freeze on a baking sheet. Once frozen, transfer each loaf to a large Ziploc bag and store the freezer.
To serve, allow bread to thaw, and then heat for 10 minutes at 350° F or until nicely golden brown.

This post is linked to:

This post contains affiliate links.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Eating with Peter, a Gastronomic Journey, Reviewed

When I read the description of this book, Eating with Peter, a Gastronomic Journey by Susan Buckley, I knew that I wanted to read it. After all, it was about a woman who had married a man considerably older than she, who took her out of her comfort zone to travel abroad, and experience new sights, sounds, and foods. I found this totally relatable, because that’s exactly what happened to me. When I started reading the book, however, I found that I couldn’t relate at all. Obviously Susan and Peter Buckley had one heck of a lot more money and free time than did my late husband, Jim, and me. Our travels were largely academic; we spent a lot of time in libraries, and never once did I have the opportunity to ride a camel, or in the back of an open Jeep driven by a three-star French chef, alas. Here’s what I mean, after they married, their honeymoon consisted of a month in the Caribbean, some days in London, three weeks in France, and another three in Morocco. Sigh.
Peter Benchley was among the privileged. He knew famous people (Ernest Hemingway and his wife to name two), was an award-winning photographer, journalist, and world traveler. Together, he and wife, Susan, toured France, Spain, and Morocco, dining at Michelin-starred restaurants, visiting remarkable food and farmers' markets, chatting up local food artisans, cheese-mongers, and the like along the way. While Peter, the consummate foodie, created his own amazing recipes from ingredients that he found locally. These adventures are shared in great, often exquisite, detail by Susan, and are accompanied by the charming illustrations of Dana Catharine.
Many interesting and exotic recipes, twenty eight to be exact, are included in this unique and colorful travelogue. Most of the recipes can be easily made at home — a handful contain a few exotic ingredients (some of which I had never heard), but that is the exception rather than the norm. An index to these recipes would have been helpful; I had a devil of a time trying to find one that interested me early on. Those who enjoy travel and food, will probably find this book as fascinating as I did. Still, I didn’t feel the warmth and kinship that I had hoped to feel while reading it. Can I recommend it? Sure, but go into it with your eyes open, knowing that chances are you will never go on any of the adventures that they did, and, like me, this may cause you a bit of disappointment.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

This post contains affiliate links.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Olive Cheese Spread

If you like cream cheese-based spreads as much as I do, then you are going to love this; I think it is the most versatile cheese spread that I have ever found. It can be served hot or cold. It can be used as individual appetizers, put in small ramekins and served with crackers. It can be used first thing in the morning if you, like me, enjoy a savory breakfast. Baked and served in small ramekins with strips of toast, it’s similar to the popular British breakfast of eggs and soldiers. 
It can be also used as a spread on top of slices of ham that can later be rolled, sliced, and served as a cold appetizer. 
I think this is my new favorite spread. Not just for the versatility, but for the amazingly good taste.
Olive Cheese Spread
Adapted from Buns in My Oven

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup Monterrey Jack cheese, grated
1 cup Pepper Jack cheese, grated
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup green olives, diced
1/2 cup black olives, diced
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 350° F.

In a medium mixing bowl, and using a hand mixer, mix together ingredients until well blended. Spread into baking dish (or dishes) of your choice and bake until hot and bubbly. Serve as you see fit.

 This post is linked to:

This post contains affiliate links.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

How to Window Box, Small-Space Plants to Grow Indoors or Out, a Review

While reading the adorable new book, How to Window Box, Small-Space Plants to Grow Indoors or Out by Clarkson Potter designed, certainly, with me in mind, I couldn’t help but think about my mother. No, she was not a gardener, but she did make Easter baskets for every attendee at her annual Easter brunch. She took a month or more to put these baskets together, each with a different theme based upon the interests of the recipient. As I held this book in my hand, I couldn’t help but think what a wonderful theme window box gardening would be for an Easter basket. This book, a bag of potting soil, some liquid fertilizer, a few plants, not to mention a fairy garden accessory or two, and you have a wonderful gift for your green-thumbed friend. But I digress.
If you, like me, no longer garden on a grand scale, this book is for you. Talk about inspirational! The pictures alone will have you champing at the bit to get outdoors and start gardening, but the information is the most valuable aspect of this book, and there is plenty, but I am getting ahead of myself. The book provides a nice introduction to window box gardening, and then guides you step-by-step through the process. Here you will learn about a wide variety of theme gardens, one or more of which will no doubt tickle your fancy. I’m not going to list them all, but some of them include: The Sandbox, The Herb Garden, The Detox Box, Edible Petals, The Jungle Box, The Salad Bar, and The Window Bog. Intriguing? I have to tell you, every one of the window boxes in this book intrigue me. Each one mentioned is not only thoroughly described, but there is a nice, easy-to-read chart on the page that will provide a quick guide to creating your own box. It will suggest a location, provide information on recommended light, window, soil, how much you need to water and fertilize, and even give you ideas for topping the box in order to make it look pretty.
 Resources are provided in the back to help you get started, and there is also adequate information to allow you to customize your window box to your own interests and needs. Should you have difficulties (Heaven forbid!), there is a nice section on troubleshooting.
If you like to garden like I do, or if you have a friend who does, pick up a copy of this book. It is small in size (and I like that), but BIG on information.
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

This post contains affiliate links.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Pappardelle with Leeks and Bacon

With Easter in the offing, it's time to do something a little different. One of the things that you might consider is starting your meal with a pasta appetizer. A two-bite portion is a great way to get those juices flowing, and to provide some insurance against eating way too much when the entrée is served. This is a wonderful little dish that works well as an appetizer. It's easy to put together, thanks, in part, to Melissa’s Cleaned and Sliced Leeks, and will yield of 4-6 starter courses, or two entrees.
Pappardelle with Leeks and Bacon
Adapted from Bon Appétit

1 T. olive oil
1 T. butter
5 slices bacon, cut into ½” pieces
1/2 pkg. (3 oz)
Melissa’s Cleaned and Sliced Leeks
Kosher salt
3/4 c. heavy cream
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
6 oz. Pappardelle
1/2 c. grated Parmesan
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice*

Heat oil and butter in a 10-inch sauté pan over medium heat. Add bacon and cook until bacon is crispy, 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in leeks and season with salt. Increase heat to medium high, and cook, stirring occasionally, until leeks begin to brown, 4-6 minutes. Stir in cream, thyme, and 1/2 cup water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente, 9 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta, reserving a cup of pasta cooking liquid.

Add pasta, Parmesan, and a half-cup of cooking liquid to the sauce, and stir to coat. Increase heat to medium, and continue stirring until the sauce coats the pasta. If you like your sauce a little thinner, stir in remaining pasta water, a little bit at a time, until desired consistency is reached. Add fresh lemon juice, and serve immediately.

* If you do not have fresh lemon juice available, omit this (and in the name of all things holy do NOT use RealLemon! Egad!). I find that fresh lemon juice brightens this dish, but it will be fine without it.
This post is linked to:
This post contains affiliate links.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Shamrock Shakes

If you don’t want to bother making a Guinness Stout Cake to conclude your St. Patrick’s Day meal, whip up some fun with these boozy, delicious, and colorful shakes. Ideally a malted milk mixer is the best option, but if you have a bullet blender, it will do. The beauty of these, besides their delicious taste, is that they can be made ahead and stored in the freezer up to and including the whipped cream topping and mini chocolate chips. Because of the alcohol content they don’t freeze solid, so you can store them in the freezer until you’re ready to serve them. I stored mine in the freezer with the straws in them so there was no delay whatsoever in getting them to my curious guests. Keep in mind that these shakes are adults only; enjoy responsibly!
Shamrock Shakes

1 ounce Irish cream Liqueur
1 ounce Crème de Menthe
1/2 ounce white Crème de cacao
2 to 3 scoops vanilla ice cream
Whipped Cream, for garnish

Mini chocolate chips, for garnish

Place all ingredients, except garnishes, into a blender and mix until creamy. Depending upon the size of your ice cream scoop, you may need to add a bit more ice cream. Serve in small glasses topped with a spritz of whipped cream and some mini chocolate chips.
Makes 2.



This post is linked to:

This post contains affiliate links.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Wearing 'o the Green Tablescape

St. Patrick’s Day is coming up on Saturday, and my table is wearing ‘o the green in celebration.
I am a big fan of green and white, and, as a consequence, I thoroughly enjoyed putting this table together.
The Fitz & Floyd pitcher centerpiece belonged to my mother. When, a dozen or so years ago, I started having the St. Patrick’s Day dinner, she passed it on to me. It has become as much of a tradition as the corned beef!
I decided to fill it with flowers this year, instead of my usual pot of shamrocks. That turned out to be a bit of a mistake. This pitcher is huge!
It has a very wide opening, and the sad bunch of flowers that I had picked up at the market needed some serious help, so I filled in with some artificial flowers. I think I pulled it off.
I topped it with a vintage St. Patrick’s Day card from the collection of St. Patrick’s cards that I started a while ago. Isn’t it sweet?
This year, I’m happy to say, I was finally able to locate a pair of leprechaun salt and pepper shakers to match the pitcher! This Fitz and Floyd pattern goes back to the 80s, so they’re not all that easy to find. I’m happy to have this whimsical addition to my table.
The wine glasses are new this year and from Pier 1. I thought they added a bit of sparkle and whimsy to the table, plus they hold a lot of wine!
The napkins with the shamrocks are new as well. I found these, believe it or not, on Amazon. They are nice, large, and quite colorful, not to mention low in price. You can find them here.
The chargers, a gift from a blogger friend, are used more often than any others in my collection. The white plates, “Blanc Amelie” from Versailles, are also among my favorites, because they blend with everything. The raised border gives them a rather elegant look; the mugs are this pattern as well. 
 Lotus bowls that I generally use for serving Asian food, worked well here as vessels for shamrock cookies.
The lidded soup bowls I have had for about 40 years. They are handy for a variety of foods and make a very special presentation. 
If you are celebrating this year with a dinner or gathering, tell me about it, I love to hear what others do!

This post is linked to:
This post contains affiliate links.