Thursday, May 16, 2019

Mediterranean Pilaf

Despite its well-worn, splattered, and tattered appearance, one of my favorite cookbooks is Marlene Sorosky’s Cookery for Entertaining, first published in 1979, and one that I purchased shortly thereafter. What I didn’t know until I married Jim, in 1995, was that he did the same thing. Both of our copies were equally annotated, and we liked many of the same recipes. One of those recipes is this one for Mediterranean Pilaf, as flavorful as it is versatile. It’s featured in the cookbook with shish kebab, and it goes very well with that, but it is also a tasty and colorful side with ribs, chicken, pork chops, and ham. It takes well to being turned into a salad; chicken and vegetables stirred in turn this into a wonderful main dish meal.

This is a recipe that you are going to want to keep close at hand in your permanent repertoire. I can’t tell you how many times I have turned to this when I was looking for something a little extra special by way of a side dish. I have adapted it slightly from the original, for ease of preparation.
Mediterranean Pilaf
Adapted from Cookery for Entertaining

3 cups chicken broth
1½ cups uncooked
basmati rice
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons butter
 ½ cup seedless
golden raisins
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon curry powder
1½ tablespoons soy sauce

Place all ingredients into a 1-quart sauce pan. Bring mixture to a boil, cover and cook over low heat 20 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed and rice is tender. Makes 8 servings.

Cilantro Rice is another of my favorites, and equally versatile.

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Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Ceramic Place Cards...This Week's Find

This week’s find is this sweet set of place cards. They are ceramic with lovely, delicate porcelain flowers in pink, yellow, and blue. As with so many things I have uncovered, I never remember my mother using these. That’s not to say that she didn’t, it’s just to say that I don’t recall if she did.
What these have me wondering, though, is whether or not people still use place cards?  I can actually envision myself using them, but I’m wondering what type of non-permanent marker would work on ceramic. If any of you have any suggestions or ideas, I would appreciate knowing.
To my great disadvantage, these are rather small, only about 2½ inches wide. To my further disadvantage, my hands are quite large, so I think it would be tricky for me to use these to write a name longer than three or four letters. Still, I will not be deterred! You can expect to see these at a table setting at some point in the future.

To see my previous find, click here.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Coco Loco Rib Rub

I don’t consider barbecue season to be officially open until after Memorial Day, although once the heat sets in you will find me out at the grill no matter the date, even if I’m only cooking a hotdog.

At the beginning of each barbecue season, I mix up a batch of steak, rib, chicken, and hamburger rub to have on hand. This is my special rib rub, and I think you’ll enjoy it a good bit. It adds a lot of flavor to whatever cut of pork that you happen to be cooking. I call it “rib rub” because that’s what I use it on the most, but it also works exceptionally well on the pork steaks and pork chops.
Coco Loco Rib Rub (Also works for chops)

1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon espresso powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch cayenne pepper, optional

Combine all the ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Use approximately 1/4 cup of rub per half rack of ribs. Store the rest in an airtight container. Keeps for up to six months.

Coffee Rub for Beef is an incredibly luscious rub as well. I use it on everything from burgers to filet mignon.

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Monday, May 13, 2019

Marinated Olives

Not only do I like pizza, but I also like all of the components of pizza. That’s what I like about Abrams’ new release, Genuine Pizza, Better Pizza at Home by Michael Schwartz. It is a book that provides the reader with fabulous recipes for pizza crust, various pizzas, but also recipes for the various components of pizza, along with cocktails and dessert. In short, this book will supply you with incredibly delicious, complete meals.

Because I love olives as much as I do (you all should know this by now, I post a lot of recipes for them), I had to try the Marinated Olives recipe in this book. It is super simple, and so flavorful! Not only will I be making these again, but, next time, I will be making a double batch. I will use half of them on homemade pizza, and the other half just to eat on their own with a glass of hearty red wine, and a loaf of crusty Italian bread for soaking up the marinade. If you like olives like I do, you have to try this recipe.
Marinated Olives
From Genuine Pizza by Michael Schwartz

1¼ cups
extra-virgin olive oil
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
¾ teaspoon
fennel seeds
¾ teaspoon crushed red pepper*
2 cups
mixed olives
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1½ teaspoons finely grated orange zest
1½ teaspoons finely grated lemon zest

In a small pot, combine the oil, rosemary, fennel, and crushed red pepper, and warm the ingredients over low heat for about 10 minutes, or until the oil is infused.

While the oil mixture is warming up, rinse the olives under
cold running water. Drain the olives thoroughly and transfer to a one-quart container.

Remove the oil from the heat and let cool slightly. Start in the garlic, orange zest, and lemon zest, and then pour the oil mixture over the olives. Let the olives marinate at room temperature for two hours, then cover and refrigerate until needed and for up to two weeks.

*I used less

In case you missed it, be sure to check out the recipe for Blistered Olives as well.

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Friday, May 10, 2019

Radish Asparagus Salad

Using fresh asparagus in new and inventive ways is a wonderful way to celebrate spring. Having spotted this recipe on the Taste of Home website, I knew I had to give it a try. I love asparagus, and I love radishes, so how could I possibly go wrong? As it turned out this is very good! It is fresh, and crunchy, with a wonderful sweet-spice dressing. It is pretty on a plate, and makes a wonderful light side salad with a cold supper or sandwich lunch. I couldn’t decide whether to use green or white asparagus, so I used half of each. Next time, for greater contrast, I will use black sesame seeds.
Radish Asparagus Salad
Adapted from Taste of Home

1 lb.
Melissa's asparagus*, trimmed, cut into 2” pieces
7 radishes, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons sesame seeds

2 T. olive oil
2 T. thinly sliced green onion
1 T. Meyer lemon juice
2 t. sugar
¼ t. garlic salt
¼ t. grated lemon zest
Pinch freshly ground black pepper

In a large saucepan, bring 6 cups water to a boil. Add asparagus; cover and boil for 3 minutes. Drain and immediately place asparagus in ice water. Drain and pat dry. Transfer to a large bowl; add radishes and sesame seeds.

Place dressing ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid; shake well. Pour over salad; toss to coat.

*To be festive, I used both green and white.

If you like radishes as much as I do, but have yet to have them roasted, you MUST try Roasted Radishes with Green Goddess Dressing.

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Thursday, May 9, 2019

A Chicken in Every Pot Tablescape

Losing someone close is not easy, I’m sure that I don’t have to tell any of you that. But there are joys in bringing a part of them home with you, and I am embracing those joys by surrounding myself with things that belonged to my parents.
This table is courtesy of my mother. Everything on it with the exception of the table runner and napkins (from Anthropologie and Pier One, respectively) once belonged to her.
I had no idea that she had, what I like to call, “a chicken on a stick.” It gave me such a smile when I found it, and I knew I had to use it in a centerpiece. As I continued to unearth things, I could feel a table coming on.
My mother was a great appreciator of beautifully set tables, and I know she would have enjoyed dining at this one.
These beautiful green chargers really surprised me was. They are Italian made, and very heavy. I don’t recall her ever using them. Brace yourselves to see them a lot because I plan on using them a great deal. They are such good quality!
The chicken plates each feature a different chicken and color combination. They are so cheery.
My absolute favorite thing on this table might surprise you, it is the little soup pot on a candle stand. I was with my mother when she bought this, so it brought back bittersweet memories.  I’m not sure that she used it as often as I certainly will, but I do know that she loved the idea of being able to keep dinner warm at the table. I like that idea too. And that’s where I got the name for this table setting.
  As it turns out, my centerpiece was an inspiration to one of my neighbors who then got out a number of her mother’s things and used them in a centerpiece on her table. I hope that you will do the same.
Don’t keep your treasures hidden away, get them out, do as I do and rotate them by the season, thoroughly enjoy what you have, and be sure to share it.

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Wednesday, May 8, 2019

This Week's Find...Royal Albert Teapot

This week’s find is actually in two parts. First is this adorable Royal Albert Old Country Roses Earthenware Hutch One-Cup Teapot containing, you guessed it, a Royal Albert “Old Country Roses” tea set. Second, is this tiny (working!) mantle clock. Both of these were on the hutch in my parent’s breakfast room. I cleaned them up and brought them home. Truth be told, I don’t know where I’m going to go with all of the cute things I’ve been cleaning up and bringing home, but I’m going to enjoy them while I can.

To see my previous find, click here.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Springtime Pasta with Asparagus and Morels

When I get nervous, I cook. Sunday, while listening to the hockey game between the St. Louis Blues and the Dallas Stars, I was very nervous. Baseball is my game, but when a local team advances to the playoffs, I am suddenly an avid fan. The Blues, had they lost the game, would have been eliminated from the playoffs, so I was a bit tense, to put it mildly.

I find cooking during moments like these to be relaxing, and so, with windows and doors open, and balmy spring breezes floating in, I pulled out ingredients suitable for the day and set to work.
Springtime Pasta with Asparagus and Morels

1 lb. Melissa’s asparagus - green, white, or a combination of both
1 ½-oz. pkg. Melissa’s dried morels*, 
hydrated according to pkg. directions
1 T. olive oil
1 T. butter
1 large shallot, minced
2 T. garlic, minced
1½ c. whole milk
1 c. Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1/3 c. minced fresh parsley
Juice of one lemon (about 3 T.)
8 oz. pasta of choice, I used

Trim asparagus and cut into 2” diagonal pieces. Bring a large pot of water to a furious boil, and drop in asparagus. Return to a boil, cover, and set a timer for 3 minutes. Meanwhile, fill a large mixing bowl with ice water and grab a spider. When the timer goes off, using the spider**, remove asparagus to the ice water-filled bowl to cool, and add the pasta to the boiling water. Cook according to package directions; drain.

Drain asparagus while pasta is cooking.

Heat the oil and butter in a large skillet.  Add the garlic and shallot, and sauté until translucent, approximately 3-4 minutes. Add whole milk to the skillet and whisk occasionally, bringing to a simmer; whisk in cornstarch. Stir in the Parmesan cheese, parsley, salt, and pepper.  Simmer until sauce thickens slightly. Taste and adjust seasoning. Add pasta and vegetables, stirring to coat.

Just before serving, drizzle the lemon juice over the whole skillet. Serve with an additional sprinkle of parsley and Parmesan cheese.

Makes 4 main dish servings.

*If you are lucky enough to have fresh morels, by all means, use them!

**If you don’t have one, get one, you will find them invaluable. I have this one.

If you are the morel fan that I am, you will certainly enjoy this Poached Wild Salmon with Pea and Morels.

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Monday, May 6, 2019

Individual Chocolate Cookies with Ganache Filling

If you are anything like me (and I really hope that you are, because I would hate to be considered an oddball, that happens far too often), you find recipes that you like, you print them out with the best intention of making said recipe, and they all end up abandoned in a tall, dust-covered stack. Mine is currently about the size of a ream of printer paper. Having confronted so much paper at my dad’s house I told myself that this just had to stop. So, one by one, I actually plan to make the recipes.

First up is this sinfully delicious chocolate cookie with ganache filling. It provided me with yet another use for my darling
handled ramekins — yay for that! — can be made ahead, frozen, and baked up just before you need them, is company-worthy, can be served on its own or with a scoop of ice cream, and is so multi-textured, dense, and chocolaty that it should be illegal. Yes, it is that good. It’s also very rich, so you may have to force yourself to get through an entire individual serving on your own. I think you can do it.
Individual Chocolate Cookies with Ganache Filling
2 ½ cups flour
¼ cup
cocoa powder, sifted
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon
espresso powder
½ teaspoon fleur de sel
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup lightly packed brown sugar
½ cup sugar
2 eggs

¾ cup milk chocolate chips

¼ cup heavy cream

To make cookies:
In a bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and fleur de sel; set aside.

In another bowl, cream together butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar with an electric mixer. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until smooth. At low speed, add dry ingredients and mix until combined; refrigerate dough for one hour.

To make ganache:
Place the chocolate and cream in a microwave-safe bowl, and melt for one minute in the microwave. Stir until smooth; set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375° F.

Divide the cookie dough into eight sections. Press four of those sections into each of 4 5” x 1” ramekins. I used

Spread the ganache over the dough, leaving a ½” border. Flatten the remaining dough into discs, and place over the ganache, sealing the edges by pressing them together. At this point you can freeze until ready to bake.

Bake for 12-15 minutes (25 minutes if frozen) or until the cookies are baked but still soft in the center. Let cool on a wire rack. Top with ice cream, if desired.

As you can tell, I am IN LOVE with these ramekins. This Jicama Spinach Dip is a savory use for them.

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Thursday, May 2, 2019

Chana Masala (Savory Indian Chickpeas)

As much as I love Indian food, prior to today I had never tried Chana Masala (Savory Indian Chickpeas). Lately I’ve been doing a bit of experimenting with chickpeas (you may remember my Lemony Salmon with Spiced Chickpeas recipe from last week), and thought I would give this a try. I quite enjoyed it! I had it as a main dish along with Cilantro Rice, but I wouldn’t hesitate to serve it as a side, or have it as a featured dish on an Indian buffet. Next time, to add a touch of sweetness, I’m going to serve it with raisin-studded Mediterranean Rice Pilaf, a recipe that I will be sharing soon.
Chana Masala (Savory Indian Chickpeas)
Adapted from

1 medium yellow onion, rough chopped
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 (1.5 inch) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
3 medium cloves garlic
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon
ground coriander
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
Pinch Kosher salt
1 9-oz. pkg
. Melissa’s Peeled & Steamed Garbanzo Beans
Fresh cilantro, for garnish

Place onion, tomato, ginger, garlic, and jalapeño in a food processor and process until smooth.

Heat olive oil in a large (10-inch) skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. Fry bay leaves in hot oil until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Pour the puréed vegetables into the skillet and cook 4-5 minutes. Stir in chili powder, coriander, garam
masala, turmeric, and salt; cook and stir until very hot, 3 to 4 minutes.

Bring to a boil and stir garbanzos into the mixture. Reduce heat to medium and cook until they are heated through, 5 to 7 minutes. 

Serve with Cilantro Lime Rice and garnish with cilantro.

Another wonderful Indian vegetable side (or main) dish is Butter Cauliflower Bowls. I make this stuff weekly.

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Wednesday, May 1, 2019

The Bookcase of my DREAMS!

If you are a follower of this blog you know that I lost my dear dad, unexpectedly, in February of this year. What you don’t know is that he passed away in the middle of panting and construction projects on my home. What grieves me mightily in all of this is that he never got to see this wonderful project completed. Dad was in on the planning stages from the very beginning. We discussed ideas, we went over pictures on Pinterest, and I sent him sketches of what I wanted. He was as excited as I was, and bought me the fireplace insert for Christmas. I shared pictures of early stages of construction with him, but he never got to see the end result.

Because of all this, I would like to share this project with you. These additions were constructed in the downstairs great room, my “chill zone,” where I go to relax and watch baseball. (In thinking about it, the words “relax” and “baseball” don’t really go together, but I digress…)

I was interested in having a fireplace, because I love them (if I had my way I would have a fireplace in every room), and I needed a large bookcase to hold all my books. (If you are a bibliophile like I am, then you know that this doesn’t begin to hold all of my books, again, digressing…)
Because my husband and I spent 20 years of our life together working in rare book rooms in libraries around the world, I wanted to replicate that in my own home, and thus I needed a ladder. Here is the end result, and I absolutely love it!

This bookcase holds a lot of history, literally and figuratively.
Many of Jim’s rare books are contained here, his collection of dictionaries, my collection of Nancy Drew books.
My collection of mystery cookbooks are here. I don't use them mind, and would never kill anyone intentionally with my cooking, but I do know how (evil grin).
Sherlock has his own space.
There is even room (well, I made room) for a bit of whimsy in this Haunted Typewriter that types out H E L P  M E when anyone passes.
My dad has his own little shelf where his textbooks from Yale are kept.
Walking Across Egypt was one of my mother’s favorite books. It is displayed on a stand on the table.
I LOVE dictionaries! Only a part of them fit here.
Sitting at this library table makes me feel as though my family surrounds me with their love. Dad always questioned my need for both lighted shelves and a ladder (and boy are they expensive!); Jim would have found it pure folly. True, I’m tall enough to reach the books on the top shelf, but it is an ornament that I had to have. 
While I eventually intend to paint and decoupage the top of the table with mementos from my life and travels relating to literature, I currently enjoy breakfast in this warm, bright, and wonderful spot. Come join me! Stay tuned for the fireplace addition in a future post.

As an aside, the builder on this project is the same wonderful man who built my deck. You can read about that here.