Archive for August, 2010

Runnin’ Down a Dream

Last weekend, my husband and I were invited to a very special party.  A colleague (in the words of Tom Petty),  is “runnin down a dream.” Saturday’s bash was a shakedown cruise for Damon’s new toy; an 18.5-foot custom-built trailer outfitted as a top-of-the-line kitchen.

If you are into kitchens, this thing is sweet. It’s got diamond plate throughout, refrigerator, freezer, triple sink, 750 bazillion BTUs of space shuttle range power, grill, fire suppression system and… (drum roll), a panini press. The thing is completely self-contained with power, potable and waste water, A/C and heater.  But wait… there’s more!  It’s even got a water closet for those times when a man’s gotta do, what a man’s gotta do.

Damon is a chef at the place I last worked. He’s been talking about getting this “nomadic kitchen” for months. No, he’s not giving up his day job; but Damon and his wife Terri are among those taking a pass at opening typical brick and mortar restaurants and opting for their own gourmet food truck businesses.  It’s the hot new trend in cities all across the country. Even the Food Network’s jumping on the bandwagon with their new reality food show, The Great Food Truck Race. The food coming out of these mobile kitchens is top rate. Before you know it, Zagat will be conducting reviews. Damon and Terri are now weekend food warriors.

Damon made all kinds of stuff for his guests.  One of my favorites is his red pepper panini with arugula, fresh mozzarella and balsamic glaze.  He also made a braised chicken with fennel.  I was two-fisting my way though the menu. I think I embarrassed myself.

It’s so nice to see my friends make their dream actually happen.  I wish them every success.

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Finnish Almond Puff

One of the things that Mormons are well-known for is how well they take care of each other.  When my dad was very ill, the family spent ten hours a day at the hospital. There was not much time to think about much else. Enter the sisters of the Relief Society…

In my mom’s neighborhood, this cadre of ladies organized themselves and brought enough food to feed an army of folks. After eating all that hospital food, it was nice to have a home-cooked meal waiting when you got home.

One of these ladies was was a gal named Els-Britt, who is of Finnish ancestry. She brought over this to-die-for almond cookie. I took one bite and went into food-nirvana. For a couple of moments, I forgot all my cares and savored this buttery, almondy, crunchy-yet-puffy cookie bar. I had to have the recipe.

Brew yourself a cup of herb tea and munch your cares away with this one.
Kiitos, Els-Britt!

Finnish Almond Puff

Shortbread Crust:
½ cup butter
1 cup flour
2 tablespoons water
pinch of salt

½ cup butter
1 cup water
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup flour
3 eggs

Sugar Glaze:
1 ½ cups confectioners sugar
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 – 2 tablespoons water
Slivered almonds

1. Preheat over to 350-degrees Cut butter into flour and salt until well blended. Sprinkle water over mixture and mix with fork. Pat into 9 x 13 pan.

2. Prepare puff. Heat butter and water to rolling boil. Remove from heat and stir in extract and flour. Stir vigorously over low heat until mixture forms a ball. Remove from heat. Beat in eggs one at a time until smooth.

3. Spread mixture over shortbread crust, covering completely.

4. Bake 60 minutes until topping is crisp and brown. Cool.

5. Prepare sugar glaze. Combine ingredients. Mix until smooth. Drizzle over cooled puff. Sprinkle generously with slivered almonds. Cut into finger- sized bars and serve.

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I can breathe a huge sigh of relief. This photo represents the final task required for my cookbook project! It’s nice to end on a sweet note.

For the past several months, I have been the project manager on a cookbook fundraiser for a women’s group I belong to. The National Society of The Colonial Dames in The State of New Jersey is a nonprofit organization with a three-fold mission of preservation of historic sites, patriotic service and publication of historic/educational publications. The cookbook, Tea Time at Peachfield, is a collection of tea-time favorites, along with a generous section on the history of tea and information on how to host a proper tea of your own. The cookbook will be available for purchase in November. In a few weeks, you will be able to pre-order a copy from the Dames website. All proceeds support the upkeep of its historic museum properties and educational programs.

I learned a whole bunch of new facts as I worked on this project. Did you know that tea figured prominently during the first act of social protest by women in the United States? After the British passed the Tea Act of 1773, a group of 50 women in Edenton, South Carolina pledged not to conform to the “pernicious custom” of drinking tea. They signed and witnessed a declaration of their protest and sent it to a London newspaper. The Boston Tea Party was not the only incident of tea-related political unrest.  In December 1774, protestors gathered all the tea that was off-loaded the ship Greyhound and burned it in the town square of Greenwich, New Jersey.

It was a delicious ending to the compilation of this work–just as these chocolate-dipped strawberries will be the perfect end for your tea party.

Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries

2 pounds strawberries, with stems
8 ounces good-quality chocolate, broken into small pieces
4 ounces better-quality tempered chocolate, broken into small pieces

1. Rinse strawberries. Pat dry and let sit at room temperature for two hours or until completely dry.

2. Place the 8 ounces of chocolate in glass bowl over simmering pot of water. Do not let bottom of bowl touch water.

3. Stir chocolate mixture until smooth and melted. Do not let chocolate reach more than 110˚F.

4. Take bowl off heat and add 4 ounces tempered chocolate pieces. Stir until melted. When the thermometer reads between 87 and 91˚F, the chocolate is tempered.

5. Working quickly, place skewer in center of strawberry and dip into chocolate. Swirl to cover, shake off excess and place on waxed paper-lined baking sheet. Remove skewer.
Let sit at room temperature until set.

Tip:  You can tell a bar of chocolate is tempered when you can feel it ‘crack’ or ‘snap’ as you break it into small pieces.

I had a little bit of left-over chocolate so I grabbed a carton of Swiss Almond Crunch cookies from Trader Joe’s and dipped a few of those. Yummy!

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I just HAD to share…

Just caught this video on Devour, the Cooking Channel’s new blog.  They posted it to commemorate Julia Child’s birthday this week. Watch closely and you can see Julia’s apron be-bopping along to the show’s intro. music behind the row of chickens…

Click and be prepared to SMILE!!!

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Bread and Butter Pickles

If you are in that season of life where your children are going off to college, you must now be in that “moving out” phase. I am pleased to say that yesterday was the official… absolutely final… everything’s gone… pick up what’s left of the mess… day my baby left the nest.  It’s strange to see your child’s life possessions strapped to the back of a truck as you caravan down the Interstate. As I stared wistfully at the handed-down home furnishings that we’ve saved for this day, I realized that bits and pieces or my own life are moving out with her as well– in ways both tangible and intangible.

So, as Plucky begins a new chapter, she apologizes for the tardiness of this week’s post. As you can imagine, I’ve been sort of busy this week.

I’ve also been in sort of a pickle.  We’ve run out of our favorite home-bottled bread and butter variety and I need to re-stock our larder. So it is time to drag out the canning jars and kettle. If you are new to home canning, I highly recommend the Ball Blue Book. This has everything you need to know about bottling nature’s bounty.  If you are a newbie who doesn’t want to make a huge financial investment, you can usually find Mason and Kerr jars at yard sales.  Just run your finger around the rims to make sure there are no chips or dings. You can buy rings and caps at your local grocery store.

I got this recipe from my mother-in-law.  My husband gets cranky when we run out.

Bread and Butter Pickles

5 quarts (about 20) cucumbers, scrubbed and sliced
10 onions, sliced in rings
Fill sink with cold salted water, Soak sliced cukes and onions for one hour

1 quart cider vinegar
5 cups sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons mustard seed
1 1/2 tablespoons celery seed
1 teaspoon tumeric

Bring to boil in 16-quart pan. Add drained cukes and onions. Bring to second boil. Pack in hot jars and process 20 minutes in water bath.

Tip: Sterilize your jars in your dishwasher just before filling.

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