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Monday, June 29, 2009

Spicy Gazpacho; Too hot to turn on the oven

Time for some painting. My summer to do list is fairly challenging. The boys' rooms need an overhaul and what better time to do it than when they are far away. Actually, I could use their help but I won't go down the missing my children road. However, for the record, number one son can paint the ceiling without a ladder. That is something that should be on your life resume.

I completely emptied the first bedroom on the list. No small feat, apparently my son is a pack rat extraordinaire. Culling through the closet, I could document his path from cub scouts to eagle without difficulty. The amount of sports gear is staggering. I found shoes ranging in size from six to thirteen. All neatly hidden and tucked away, now tossed about the house. This is why I want a basement.

Off to home deport for trip number one. Choosing a paint color has become more complex now that they've hired a team of paint chip identifiers. I'm stuck between rocky mountain sky and river rock. Both outdoorsy colors, grey blue. Nantucket fog was in the running but there was a horror movie with fog in it, I don't know if I can get past it.

By the time I was done running errands, I was exhausted. Time for gazpacho.

Pierre Franey & Bryan Miller's The Seafood Cookbook (pretend the title is underlined a skill that escapes me at this time) may very well be my favorite seafood cookbook. I have adapted the Spicy Gazpacho with Shrimp and Crab Meat. When we lived in Maryland, crab meat was plentiful and relatively affordable. Here in Texas, shrimp are abundant. How I make it depends on what vegetables I have available, what seafood is on special. The original recipe has no cucumber, but I love the added crunch.

Mix the following

3 cups peeled, seeded and chopped ripe tomatoes
3/4 cup chopped red onion
1/3 cup finely chopped celery
1 cup chopped sweet red pepper
1 cup chopped cucumber
1 Tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1 finely diced jalapeno, less if you don't like spice
1 Tablespoon dried coriander
1 cup tomato juice
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
salt & pepper

Chill and then add

1 lb cooked and shelled shrimp
1 lb crab meat

Tastes better the next day if there is any leftover.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Cinnamon Rolls

They are in the house... I have to figure out how to get them out of the house. We are up to bread #8 in the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge. Nicole of Pinch My Salt proposed that people bake their way through Peter Reinhart's book. The Cinnamon Rolls are delicious. The dough was easy, a one day dough. However, when I was preparing my mis en place, I realized that the bread had exactly the same ingredients as a dough that I make at Christmas, except for the lemon zest.

Mis en place, a fancy way of saying putting out the ingredients, everything in place. I appreciate being able to use the occasional French phrase. It makes up for how much French I have completely forgotten.

Recipes and food are so tied up in memories. I cannot count how many times I have made this dough for Christmas tree coffee cake. I started by helping my mother when I was young. I know that countless little hands have helped me over the years. Always happy to be helping. And so the slight taste of lemon in the dough startled me. If I make it again, I will not add the zest to the dough, just the icing. I know most people enjoy the lemon, it is just messing with my memories.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Ciabatta Immersion

So far this week, I have made Ciabatta starting with poolish, I have made ciabatta with biga and olive oil. I finished with Ciabatta with poolish with the addition of roasted garlic and rosemary. My conclusions? They all tasted good. My loaf with the best holes was my first. Mixing anything into the bread with the fold method is very challenging. My judges were appreciative of all attempts. They don't understand the fascination with holes.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Black Beans and Corn

It has been one hundred and five here. It is time to figure out what to eat that doesn't involve turning on an oven.

This is one of our go to menus. We make it, we eat it. How we eat it depends on the day. My kids love it as a dip with tortilla chips. We frequently have it as a side, anything grilled seems to go with it. There is no real recipe and variations are frequent. Mix one drained can of black beans, one drained can of shoepeg corn, one chopped avocado and then add some seasoning. I'd suggest cilantro, finely diced red onion, lime juice and salt at the very least.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Guest Post from Scout

I am Scout, a female labrador retriever. The canine member of the family. The American Kennel Club confirms that my intelligence and adaptability make me an ideal dog. I have a highly developed sense of smell. It informs and guides me. And sometimes it gets me into trouble...

I am not a fan of The Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge. Reinhart relies all together too much on temperature and time. The labrador relies on smell. I can tell when the barm on the counter needs to fed. I can tell just by the change in the room, when the bread has proofed. I could be such a help. But feigning concern for my health and my hips, my humans work hard to keep me lean and healthy and starved. Each week, a different bread, never any for me. Surround by aromas, dogs cannot live on aromas alone.

Father's Day started off well, with a trip to the local park. The smells in the park were layered and enjoyable, much like a fine glass of wine.

We returned to the house where the male human was treated to eggs, fresh homemade bread and the New York Times. The scents were enticing, but for me, only a breakfast of Science Diet for mature dogs. Do you know how it feels to be the only one in a room forced to eat kibbles?

The day continued with even the chickens mocking me with their smell, I could leap up and crush them, but I am too well behaved, a good dog.

At some point, I found myself alone with the loaf of white bread. Finally, I could stand it no more and snatched the second loaf of bread off the counter. Although I have a highly developed sense of smell, I have absolutely no sense of pacing myself. Unsure when the next opportunity to eat bread products would present itself, I ate the entire loaf.

I've been ill for two days, a carbohydrate hangover, but it was worth it.

The female has taken to hiding cooling loafs, but one day she will forget...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


I am moving along in the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge, on to Chiabatta. Yesterday, I made the poolish version of the ciabatta. I found it to be the most challenging of the recipes so far. I have no experience with wet dough and do not think that mine was wet enough. It was my first couche. Not really a challenging idea, a nice blanket for your dough to rest in. The hearth baking was interesting. Any time cracking the oven glass is a possible consequence of your actions, you know you are playing with fire, or heat. The bread was delicious. I called for an official tasting after the appropriate cooling down period and before we knew it, a loaf was missing. And we could not blame the dog this time.

After my first attempt, I went onto youtube and studied other people's posts about folding. It is clear that my dough was not as wet as theirs. Today, I am going to try the ciabatta, biga version with some olive oil.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Thank you dinner

One of the more challenging aspects of being a military family is moving away from your family. You instantly lose the people who you can rely upon to take you to the airport, stay with your kids when you take one of them to the hospital or come to graduations.

We have been lucky to make some friends who have stepped in when we needed help. Recently, one of my friends offered to take us to the airport and pick us up nine days later.

My favorite way to thank someone for kindness is with a dinner. I have recurrent fantasies about a dinner fairy having everything ready when I come home from work. I enjoy cooking, but after a long week it is sometimes one more thing on the list.

However, what do you cook for a family who has previously picked all the mushrooms out of the world's best chicken a la king recipe?
Start with dessert.

I have been enoying Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito's Baked. They says that their preanut butter crispy bars are the most popular refrigerated bar that they make. I followed the recipe except I used semisweet chocolate for the icing. I am wary that people who dislike mushroom may dislike dark chocolate.

Smitten kitchen gives an amazing write up and copy of the recipe

On to the dinner. We have a favorite pasta salad from Bon Appetit, Aug 2000. We have been making it for years.


* 6 tablespoons olive oil
* 1/2 cup drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
* 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
* 1 tablespoon drained capers
* 1 garlic clove, minced

* 1 pound fusilli pasta
* 12 ounces tomatoes, coarsely chopped
* 8 ounces fresh water-packed mozzarella cheese, drained, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
* 1 cup (packed) fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
* 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (about 3 ounces)
* 1/2 cup minced pitted oil-cured black olives


Blend first 5 ingredients in processor until tomatoes are coarsely chopped. Set dressing aside.

Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain. Transfer to large bowl. Add dressing to hot pasta; toss to coat. Cool, stirring occasionally. Add chopped fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, Parmesan and olives; toss. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be made 6 hours ahead. Cover; chill. Bring to room temperature before serving.)

Add some oven baked chicken fingers and dinner is complete.

Friday, June 19, 2009


I am enjoying the book more than I ever imagined that I would. The Challah was relatively straight forward. The instructions are easy to follow. I choose the three stranded braid. I amazed to see that some people actually braided into a ball. It was a lovely loaf, not as sweet as Challah that I have had.

I am anxious to reach Ciabatta. I can't really see me making many of the breads that we have made so far on a regular basis. We don't buy that much butter. But to learn how to make Ciabatta and maybe even some of the varieties presented. What a great summer activity.

Monday, June 15, 2009

BBA #5 Casatiello

I was worried that Casatiello would be a challenge. We were going to meet my in laws in a rented cottage in Lewes, DE. You never know what you will find in a rental's kitchen or the local grocery store. I put a little yeast in a container, packed up some spices and a copy of the recipe and flew into Philadelphia.

We made a trip into the city for some supplies. When I was single, I lived a few streets over from the Italian Market. The neighborhood looks great, cute coffee shops and bistros. It was fun to see.

The Philadelphia Italian market remains wonderful. I stopped by Claudio's on South 9th street for some cheese and salami. I miss Claudio's. They let you taste. The cheese is amazing. I told Sal, the pleasant man behind the counter, what I was making, and he suggested what salami to use.

I was still concerned about the container so I stopped by Fante's.
Anything you need for baking, you could find there. I picked up some paper Panettone molds. I mentioned to my daughter that I was going to fold one up and stick it in my suitcase for later. The sales lady overheard and was appalled. She suggested just carrying on the plane so as not to crush it. Me, my papermold, the joys of going through security, it wasn't going to happen.

My oldest son flew into Phili on Tuesday to spend some time with us. I had planned on getting him to knead for the recommended 12 minutes, big hands, strong man, it would work. I didn't think that there would be a stand mixer waiting for me and I was right. However, when my husband left to pick him up from the airport, I was so anxious I decided to start working on the bread, give me something to do.

My sons go to college 1500 miles away from me. Although I am proud that we have raised young adults who are comfortable going off on their own, I miss them. School, sports and their jobs keep them away. Periodically, I need to hug them, smell them and watch them eat. Waiting for them to come home drives me crazy.

The bread was easy, it was a bit messy at first but responded well to the kneading. While the bread was baking, the cottage smelled like an Italian bakery. It was cooling when they pulled up from the airport. Perfect timing.