Friday, July 29, 2016

Roasted Red Pepper Relish

It has been one hot summer. So hot, in fact, that I have yet to be able to use the grill. Today it was 89°F with a light breeze, and felt downright cool, so I figured it was probably as good a time as any to fire up the grill. I had nothing thawed, and only a package of Nathan's Jumbo Beef Franks in the fridge that would be suitable, but a hot dog seemed fine, particularly with baseball there for the watching on TV. After a brief rummage through the fridge, I realized that I had no decent toppings other than mustard for my grilled dog. I did have, as I always do, a jar of Melissa's Fire Roasted Sweet Red Bell Peppers in the pantry, and remembered a recipe I'd seen a long time ago for making relish out of peppers. Why not, I thought, so I set to work.

I really had no idea what I was doing here. I sort of channeled my mother and her legendary chili sauce on a smaller scale, subbing the peppers for tomatoes. Talk about an overwhelming success! I liked this so much that I could have easily eaten it as a main dish and just forgotten the hot dog.

This is easy to make, puts jarred relish to absolute shame, and is sure to be a winner. Give it a try.
Roasted Red Pepper Relish
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 7-ounce jar
Melissa's Fire Roasted Sweet Red Bell Peppers
drained and chopped
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
Pinch of ground cloves, trust me
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil and sauté onions and garlic until onions are tender, stirring frequently, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in red peppers and allow to heat for 1-2 minutes.

While onions are cooking, combine vinegar and sugar in small bowl, stirring until sugar dissolves. Stir vinegar mixture into red peppers along with mustard, cloves, salt, and cayenne pepper. Cook until liquid has evaporated, stirring frequently, about 4 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate.

Yield: 2 cups

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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Pesto for the Resto

Let me begin this post by saying that I haven't been getting a lot of sleep. As a consequence, I have days where I am absolutely goofy from the lack of it. This afternoon while I was making this pesto, I started thinking about Jerry Seinfeld (Please don't ask me why pesto made me think of him, I have no explanation for that.), specifically about the episode on the generic holiday called "Festivus" ("for the rest of us"). 

Because this pesto is made with toasted walnuts (as I am not a particular fan of pine nuts in pesto and surely am not alone), I thought that this should be referred to as "Pesto for the Resto." (Lack of sleep. I warned you.) I don't think anything beats toasted walnuts in pesto, despite pine nuts being traditional. They have such an earthy, woodsy, warm taste that so beautifully enhances the fresh basil. Try it and you will surely agree.

Pesto for the Resto
¼ cup garlic cloves
1/3 cup walnuts, toasted
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 ounces fresh basil leaves
½ cup olive oil
¼ - ½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ - ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1-1/2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Place garlic and walnuts into the work bowl of a food processor and process until blended. Add cheese and basil and process until combined. With machine running, slowly drizzle in olive oil. Lastly, add salt, pepper, and lemon juice, and pulse to combine. Keeps in the fridge for two days, freezes for 2-3 months.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish Tablescape

With my last table you were treated to the gorgeous leaf chargers sent to me by Marigene Purcell of the In the Middle of Nowhere blog.
I failed to mention that, in addition to sending me these amazing chargers, she also sent me some tablecloths.
Today's table features one of them, one, I might add, that she had used, I had admired, and the next thing I knew, it was mine!
I had a good time setting this table. This one, as the two previous, took me about three days to put together. I was so overwrought with Mr. O-P's care and imminent loss, that it was all I could do to just put one foot in front of the other.
Table settings were my therapy, I told myself, so, little by little, I would assemble them.
Initially this table was set without the bejeweled chargers. I kept looking at it and thought it needed a bit more color. This was when I remembered the chargers I’d bought a couple of Christmases ago. So I dug these out of my holiday bin and loved the look. (I love it when I can use something in more than one way.)

Then, I thought it needed just a tiny bit more red so, while Mr. O-P slept, I ran down to Walgreen's for a bag of Swedish fish.  Perfect!
As a side note, the cobalt blue champagne flutes shown here had been one of our wedding gifts. Do you know that in the 21 years we were married we never once used them?
We are not fans of champagne, but beautiful glasses should be used no matter what, so I have remedied this situation and now use them with my morning orange juice. Celebrate life, people! Use those precious items. 
Placemats – Pier One
Chargers – Pier One
Blue Fish Plates - eBay
Flatware – Crate & Barrel
Small White Fish Dishes – One Kings Road
Shorebirds – Fitz & Floyd
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Monday, July 25, 2016

Pattie's Pea Salad

July has been a thoughtful month. Mr. O-P has been gone a month today and, last week, marked the one year anniversary of the passing of a dear family friend who was like a second mother to me. I'd known Betty all of my life. She fascinated me early on with her vibrant personality, contagious laugh, and the fact that she would tackle absolutely any project whether she knew anything about it or not. I still remember her talk about how she nearly cleared her and husband, Tony's, apartment building when they were first married when she decided to boil wool.

She and Tony were always included in family dinners and other affairs, and after he passed away in 2006, we continued to invite her. She was always happy to take part and make any contribution that she could. I laughed to myself yesterday while making this salad. A number of years ago when we'd invited her to dinner she asked if she could bring something, and then suggested a pea salad. I was happy to have any help I could get, so eagerly accepted her offer. When the day of the dinner arrived, I was only too pleased to not have to whip up a salad to go with the rest of the meal. When she walked in empty-handed I asked her where the pea salad was.

"I don't know, honey," she said. "Where did you put it?"

"Miss Betty," I told her, "you were supposed to bring it!"

"I was?" she asked, a bit bewildered. "Well, I don't remember that. I guess this means we're not having pea salad. That's too bad. It sounded good."

In later years, if you haven't guessed, her memory had started to fade a bit, only adding to her charm. I'm not sure which recipe she used, but here is mine. This makes about two cups, or four small side servings.

Pattie's Pea Salad
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons sour cream
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4-1/2 teaspoon dried dill, or to taste
1/4 cup diced celery
1/3 cup salted Spanish peanuts, skins on
1/4 cup cubed sharp cheddar
1/2 pound frozen petite green peas

In a large bowl, stir together mayonnaise, sour cream, white pepper, and dill. Fold in celery, peanuts, cheddar, and the frozen peas. Refrigerate until the peas have thawed; serve.
NOTE: Some people like a bit of onion in their pea salad. If you are one of those people, add about a tablespoon of finely diced red onion to this recipe. I always feel that onion in any amount overwhelms the delicate taste of the peas, but, hey, that's me.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Avocado & Hearts of Palm Salad with Coriander Vinaigrette

When dad and I went to Aldi’s the other day (You do remember that story, right? If not, you can refresh your memory here.), in addition to picking up my weight in asparagus (So many delicious recipes are coming!), I also picked up bunch of coriander (cilantro) about the size of a small Buick. Cilantro is one of those herbs that people tend to either love or hate – no middle of the road with cilantro – and I happen to be one of those would love it.  Once I got home with it, and cleared a rather large spot in the fridge, I wondered how I was going to manage to consume it all. (It has a rather limited shelf…errr, refrigerator…life.) I was perusing, entering lists of the oddball things that I had on hand, and up popped this recipe.  I made the dressing as stated, but cut way back on everything else, using only 1 avocado, 3 hearts of palm that I cubed, and shaved a small handful of red onion on the mandolin until I got what I thought would be a suitable, but not overbearing amount. It made a wonderful main dish salad -- very tasty, satisfying, and surprisingly hearty.
The following day I used the extra dressing to dress a potato salad that I tossed together using baby potatoes cooked until fork tender, slightly cooled and sliced, along with 2 scallions, diced, 2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped, 2 ribs of celery, thinly sliced, some chopped red pepper left over from the Pimiento Toasts, and a bit of salt and pepper.  It was an easy and delicious side dish using, essentially, what was leftover in the fridge…and no one was the wiser.

Avocado & Hearts of Palm Salad
Slightly adapted from

1 small garlic clove
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup olive oil
1 14-ounce
jar Melissa’s hearts of palm, drained
4 California firm-ripe avocados
1 small red onion, sliced thin
Boston lettuce leaves
In a blender purée garlic and coriander with lemon juice, sugar, and salt. With motor running add oil in a stream, blending until dressing is emulsified.

Cut hearts of palm and avocado into 3/4-inch cubes and in a large bowl with a rubber spatula gently toss with onion and vinaigrette until combined well.

Line 8 salad plates with lettuce leaves and mound avocado mixture on top.
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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Mexican Street Corn Off the Cob

My mom did all of the cooking while I was growing up; dad didn't even know how to boil water. So, I get more than a little pleasure at now hearing him talk about food. He has been on his own for over three years, and has become quite the microwave master. He also manages to give me weekly reports on the cheapest place to buy produce, and loves his corn on the cob.

The other day he told me that he added fresh corn to his daily [mountainous] salad and loved it. Suddenly I was taken back to Mr. O-P's and my trip to Italy. We were in a cafe in Florence, I had ordered a salad, and mounded in the middle was a pile of fresh corn. It was wonderful. If you want to make a salad extra hardy, freshly stripped corn is certainly one way to do it. Dad always picks up extra corn for me (on sale), so I had fun experimenting with it this week.

This recipe is from local food columnist Helen Fletcher who, like me, loves Mexican Street Corn, but does not love wearing it. She created this recipe (that appeared in local foodie magazine, Sauce) to keep herself clean and still enjoy her corn. It is so yummy!  Because it had been raining here for forty days and forty nights (okay, three), I wasn't able to use the outdoor grill, so just charred the corn in the broiler. This worked out just fine.

Mexican Street Corn Off the Cob

Slighted adapted from Sauce Magazine
2 cups corn (about four large ears)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
3/4 cup crumbled cotija cheese
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
Remove the husks and silk from the corn. Place the corn over a medium-sized fire and grill, turning every four minutes or so until nicely charred on all sides and the corn is tender crisp. Cool.
Cut the corn from the cob, and combine with the red pepper, cilantro, and cheese. Mix the mayonnaise and lime juice, stirring it into the corn mixture.
Let the salad sit at room temperature for several hours to allow the flavors to come together.
Serves 4 
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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Pimiento Cheese Toasts

Being a Jersey boy, Mr. O-P never understood my relationship with pimiento cheese. Under the name of "cheese salad," this was served between two pieces of white bread once a week, for twelve years, while I was in school. Picky eater that I was, I always looked forward to Thursdays when I knew they'd be serving something I'd enjoy. Mother made it occasionally, but once I was on my own, this became a staple in my diet.

This is my kind of comfort food. Easy to prepare, and amazingly versatile, it can be served warm or cold, can be plain or fancy, grilled or not grilled, offered with vegetables or crackers, spread on top of ham that has been folded nicely and sandwiched between two halves of a fresh-from-the-oven buttermilk biscuit, or dolloped generously on top of a burger right off the grill.

Pimiento cheese also makes one heck of an appetizer when spread on slices of an authentic French baguette and warmed under the broiler for a few minutes. These tasty bits are quick and easy to put together and, trust me when I tell you, are very hard to stop eating.

You probably have your own recipe for pimiento cheese, but in case you don't, I'm going to supply my current favorite here. Whatever kind you make, there are three things that are of utmost importance. First of all, get good quality cheddar cheese in a block and grate your own. Never buy that desiccated pre-shredded stuff.  Second, forget pimientos, despite the name, and use Melissa's Fire Roasted Sweet Red Bell Peppers. The difference in taste when using these over a jar of insipid pimientos is remarkable. Third, Duke's mayonnaise. Yes, there is a difference.
Pimento Cheese
Slightly adapted from Garden & Gun

2 cups sharp orange cheddar, grated (8 oz.)
½ cup Duke’s mayonnaise
½ cup
Melissa's Fire Roasted Sweet Red Bell Peppers, drained and chopped
2 scallions, chopped (use both the green and white parts)
½  tsp. freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. cayenne
3 drops of Tabasco

Place all ingredients in a medium mixing bowl, and fold together with a rubber spatula. Cover and refrigerate to allow flavors to meld.

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Monday, July 18, 2016

Green & White Table for Summer

Last week I showed you my lily-white table. This week the table is quite similar, but with the addition of green by way of these lovely chargers gifted to me by tablescape blogger Marigene Purcell of the In the Middle of Nowhere blog. I cherish these plates. Having something new and pretty to look at and work with cheered me enormously.
You first saw them last week, in their place of honor on the Baker’s Rack during my redoing project that you can reacquaint yourself with here. Marigene surely has the biggest collection of

Placemats – Pier One
Soup Bowls – Sur la Table
Coffee Set – Pottery Barn
Flatware – My mother’s picnicware
Leaf salad plates & chargers -

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Friday, July 15, 2016

Baker's Rack Redo

I'm not sure how many people would agree with me, but I find cleaning therapeutic. 
When Mr. O-P passed way, I had a tremendous need to clean and put things in order. 
I think being able to physically align things helped to offset internal chaos. 
One of the things I felt a need to change was the baker's rack in the kitchen. 
It had become a source of visual chaos, having accumulated many sentimental things to the point of being overwhelming. 
I wanted something fresh, new, and serene, so took everything off, cleaned it up, and started all over again.
I love the new look, and it is so much more practical having things on it that I actually use rather than just stare at. It still holds both old and new favorite things, but also seems far less random and more orderly.
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