I am not a fan of fall.

I realize this is an unusual sentiment. All over Facebook and Pinterest everyone is proclaiming their love of fall and all of it’s trappings. For me it’s just a reminder that cold is coming, the leaves are dying and we’re in for seven to nine months of brown. It reminds of school starting and, sad to say,  I never liked going back to school because summer was too much fun. It reminds me that winter is coming and bringing the cold. I truly dislike being cold.

I will grant that there are some good things associated with fall. I love bonfires, the fireplace and the one week of beautiful fall foliage. I do love the food associated with fall like the squash: pumpkin, butternut, acorn and spaghetti! I love the soups: beef stew, chili and chowder. I love baking pies and breads. It’s all wonderful comfort food that warms the body and spirit. I’ve posted most of my great soup recipes and pies. I suppose it’s time to branch out and try something new. My mother bakes a pear pie every year from her pear harvest. It’s delicate and sweet and a true treat.

I think next spring I’ll plant some fruit trees. Having just come from the Amalfi Coast in Italy I’m inspired to grow even more.

I took this photo while on my honeymoon in Amalfi, Italy. This is just one of the multitude of groves dotting the mountainous countryside.

Kentucky isn’t ideal for lemons but I can certainly plant an apple, cherry or peach tree. I get so frustrated going to the market to buy fresh peaches only to come home and they are bland and mushy. What a treat it would be to pick fresh peaches every summer and fall.

The olive trees grow wild all over the country too. I would have loved to pick a bunch to bring home but I haven’t the first idea of how they make them edible. We did see a couple men harvesting them outside our hotel. That was really fun.

I also must tell you about my amazing husband. He spoiled me rotten by even taking me to Europe. He then managed to add to the spoiling by buying me a belt, two handbags, two pairs of shoes and two bottles of aged balsamic vinegar, one is 12 years old and the other is 20 years old. If I work up the courage to open and eat them I’ll let you know.

Home Grown!

I grew these on my back deck and I can’t wait to make some guacamole with them.

There is something very satisfying about growing your own food. I am less tempted to let home grown produce spoil in the fridge. I just wish my tomatoes and peppers would all ripen at the same time. This is the fourth tomato I’ve harvested. They are very sweet and mild. Yes, I have tried to eat raw and by themselves. My stomach still rejects it. So, I’ll cook with them and I’ll get the nutrition another way. The peppers are very spicy hot. In fact, I should probably use gloves with them because last time my fingers stung for days after chopping them. I suppose I’m gonna make some guacamole with these. I just wish I had some of those avocado’s cousin Julie grows.

I didn’t tell him until after he had a few bites down.

My D is not a fan of veggies. Oh, he’ll eat any veggie I put in front of him . . . if it’s fried.  He will eat broccoli, salad and the occasional green bean without the batter or cheese but that’s about the limit to his culinary range. Needless to say, I cannot be frying veggies every day and quite frankly, to me, that’s kind of a sacrilegious thing to do to a perfect summer vegetable. I, on the other hand, can eat almost all veggies, except for turnips and beets, eww. So last night I thought I’d test his mettle completely with black bean and mushroom burgers.  I researched several different recipes on the internet and most of them were some variation of the same thing. Curiously, my favorite cookbook, Cook’s Illustrated, was completely devoid of any meatless burger, which was highly disappointing. Anyway, I’ve made veggie burgers before with broccoli, carrots, zucchini and they are delicious but very time consuming.  However, I had never attempted a bean version. What I came up with didn’t take long at all. In part, because of my food processor, well actually . . . now that I really think about it, because of my food processor but not everyone has one so if you want to you can do it all by hand. I’m certain this recipe could be tweaked in a million ways depending what tastes you want at the time. I made mine with an Italian bent but they would be wonderful with curry or Spanish flavors. In fact, just thinking about it makes me want to go make some curried burgers with goat cheese and mango chutney. I suppose I should use lentils in that case, huh? **Note to self: Add lentils to your grocery list.

So, here’s what I used:

1 small onion
1/2 medium orange bell pepper (any color will do)
1 large garlic clove
1 carton mushrooms (crimini or white)
1 can black beans
1 tbsp whole grain dijon mustard (I love Trader Joe’s)
1 tbsp tomato paste
3/4 cup Italian bread crumbs
1 egg
3/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
3 tbsp chopped parslay
a pinch of salt
black pepper to your taste

The first thing you’ll want to do is rough chop your onions and pepper then throw them in the FP (food processor) with the garlic clove and finely mince. Pour that mixture into a large mixing bowl. Next, put the mushrooms and black beans (rinsed) into the FP and chop until finely minced, then combine with the onion mixture. Add all the remaining ingredients and mix until well combined (you may need to use your hands).

Make into patties (about six) and before pan frying them lightly dredge them in flour and Italian breadcrumbs. Cook until browned then place in the oven for 10 minutes with goat cheese on top to melt.

Yum.

I served these with couscous and kale sauteed with bacon, onions and a farm fresh egg (just like Granny used to make). It was so good I may make this every night.

Black Bean and Mushroom Burger with warm goat cheese served on Couscous with Kale sauteed in Bacon and Onions and Egg.

Smoothie health … it’s not pretty.

My father says that my very first word was pretty. He says he was holding me in his arms and showing me a picture on the wall. Apparently, I repeated the word “pretty” when prompted. He likes to say that it was befitting because I was so pretty. Father’s are biased you know.

One thing I know for sure is, my smoothies are not pretty. They look quite tasty when you blend banana’s, blueberries, cherries and blackberries. It’s when you add the four cups of chopped kale that dramatically alters the appearance. It ends up being a thick, brownish-green sludgy looking mess. I tell myself that these drinks are making me healthy. They certainly do have a “cleansing” effect on my digestive system. Wow! I drink them regardless because it’s really challenging for me to get all my green’s consumed like I’m supposed to.

Here’s what I’m talking about.

You can’t judge everything by it’s looks. It may not look tasty but it is. Not, chocolate cake good … but good.

The parable of this story is, “You have to do things that seem onerous at first but the benefits and results make life so much richer.” Oh well, some crap like that. I don’t know. What I do know is I want to be healthy when I’m at the retiring age so that I can enjoy my life without pain and discomfort. Choosing this over chocolate cake, fried chicken and Cheetos will hopefully pay off.

Or I could get hit by a bus tomorrow. Anything is possible.

Naan and all things Indian, I love it!

Indian food is amazing to me. The intense heat, the complex spices and the subtle sweetness to balance it out just thrill me. I wish I could make all of the complex dishes I love at home. I confess however, that I don’t know enough about them to understand the names of dishes let alone all the necessary ingredients. In fact, I could probably count on my hands and toes the number of times I’ve actually eaten at Indian restaurants. Kansas City has one in particular that was a favorite of mine. Korma Sutra is in mid-town KC and it was there that I discovered my love of okra, roasted goat and samosas. Honestly, there isn’t an Indian dish I’ve tried that I didn’t enjoy.

I have made a few impromptu curry dishes with just the basic curry powder and coconut milk. They are good and many people I’ve served them to have complimented me on them. They are in no way authentic or do they compare with the fabulous dishes I’ve had at restaurants. The food creates a picture of India for me that makes me yearn to visit. How can food which tastes so good not come from a fascinating and beautiful country?

I have a friend from Mumbai who would tell me she thought I could handle visiting India above many of her other friends. In part because I do love the food so much but also because I am accepting of cultures and have an adventurous spirit. I hope that’s true and I hope some day to find out. After seeing the new film, “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” with Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson and a myriad of amazing British actors, I’m certain that I could not only endure the vibrant odors, colors and culture but relish it!

So, what’s this all about? Well, yesterday I took a second stab at baking Naan (leavened flatbread). Several years ago I attempted to bake some and read the recipe wrong, adding a tablespoon of salt rather than the recommended teaspoon. This time I rigorously adhered to the recipe (well I did tweak it a bit). My efforts were successful, even if I do say so myself.

Simply beautiful!

I used a different recipe this time, one that I knew would be fabulous from Ruth Reichl’s “Gourmet Cookbook”. I have made many of the recipes from this book and every one of them is wonderful. Ruth was the editor of “Gourmet” magazine until is was shut down last year. All of the recipes in the book are the most successful recipes from the magazine.  They have been tested and used and perfected. It’s my second favorite cookbook, buy it if you can! I bought it when it was first published for over $30. You can now buy the same book at Amazon for $7 – $8. Wow.

So, anyway, here is the recipe. Keep in mind that I modified the recipe to exclude the poppy seeds.

Naan
Leavened Flatbread with Mixed Seeds

NOTE: The Indian leavened flatbread called naan doesn’t require a traditional tandoor oven; a pizza stone works well. It doesn’t need to be restricted to an Indian meal either; it’s delicious with leg of lamb or a vegetarian dish with a smidge of cumin or curry powder.

1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon sugar {I used honey}
1 tablespoon warm water (105-115 degrees)
3-4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons black poppy seeds {I didn’t use any}
1/2 cup warm whole milk (105-115 degrees) {I used non-fat buttermilk}
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt, at room temperature {I used Greek non-fat}
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg, lightly beaten (room temp)
1-1/2 teaspoon mixed seeds, such as nigella seeds, sesame seeds, and/or white poppy seeds {I didn’t use any}
Kosher salt for sprinkling {I used lavender sea salt instead – If you can find it, get it! It’s the most amazing herb to cook with!}

NOTE ABOUT SPECIAL EQUIPMENT: A baker’s peel is an especially helpful tool for inserting dough onto the pizza stone. I don’t own one so it was a bit tricky getting the very pliable dough onto the extremely hot stone without burning myself but I made do with two wide spatulas.

Stir together yeast, sugar, and water in a small bowl until yeast is dissolved. Let stand until foamy, about five minutes. (If mixture doesn’t foam, discard and start over with new yeast.)

Sift together 2-1/2 cups flour, salt, baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon black poppy seeds into a large bowl. Stir together milk, yogurt, onion and 2 tablespoons of butter in another bowl. Make a well in the flour mixture, then add yeast mixture, milk mixture, and egg and stir until a soft, sticky dough forms.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes, adding just enough of remaining flour to prevent dough from sticking. Form dough into a ball, transfer to a lightly oiled large bowl, and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a kitchen towel (not terry cloth) and let rise in a warm draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.

Place pizza stone on oven floor if using a gas oven, on the lowest rack if using electric (remove other racks in either case), and preheat oven to highest setting (500-550 degrees F). Allow about one hour to preheat stone. Flour two or three baking sheets.

Once dough has doubled, turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and cut into quarters. Roll out each quarter with a floured rolling pin into a 1/8-inch oval about 12 inches long and 5 inches wide. Transfer to floured baking sheets, cover with kitchen towels, and let rest for 10 minutes.

If using, stir together remaining seeds into a small bowl.

Transfer 1 dough oval to a well-floured peel. Brush top of oval with about 1/2 tablespoon of remaining butter and sprinkle with one quarter of the seeds and kosher salt. Line up far edge of peel with far edge of stone and tilt peel, jerking it gently to start dough moving. when edge of oval touches stone, quickly pull back peel to transfer loaf to stone (do not pull dough back). Bake until edges are golden brown and bread bubbles (top will be an uneven golden brown), 5 to 6 minutes. Keep naan warm, loosely covered with foil, while you bake remaining loaves, one at a time, in the same manner.

NOTE: Baking these w/out a peel is dangerous! Be careful and DON’T burn yourself, please.

Enjoy this amazing bread.  Since I didn’t have an Indian dish to serve this with I just made a goat cheese spread using my favorite curry powder. Simple, easy, and YUM-MEE!

No reason really . . .

I haven’t posted in a while not because I haven’t been cooking but I simply haven’t done anything new or inventive. Until today that is. I am feeling a bit overwhelmed by my lack of employment and lack of direction . Movement in general is always good I realize, I simply don’t know what direction to move. It seems to me a destination should be in mind but I don’t have one yet. I’m feeling quite useless and that’s not good. When I’m in the kitchen there are results, there are rewards. Rewards for me and for D. I am also missing my friends and wishing I had some here. The few ladies I have reached out to have not reached back. I suppose you can’t make people be friendly. I don’t know what they’re going through and perhaps they find me unsavory. Anything is possible.

Now, on the my inventiveness. Tonight I made fried fish with corn muffins. That in of itself is nothing extraordinary, I realize that. What makes it so for me is that I didn’t follow a recipe in putting the muffins together. I simply went off of memory and experience. I love that. They were moist, slightly sweet, tender and just amazing with butter and honey.  So, what’s in them? Let’s see now …

My own creation, baking is so much fun.

Dry Ingredients
In a large mixing bowl combine the following:
1 cup – white corn meal
1/2 cup – unbleached white flour
1/2 cup – whole wheat flour
2 tbsp – flax meal
1 tsp – baking powder
1 tsp – baking soda
1/2 tsp – salt

Wet Ingredients
In another bowl combine the following
1/2 cup sugar
6 tbsp melted butter (cooled)
2 eggs (one at a time and beat vigorously)
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup Greek yogurt

Once all the moist ingredients are together add 1/4 cup – wheat bran and let set for a few minutes. Gently combine the moist with the dry being careful not to over mix. Fill muffin pan and bake in a 400 degree, preheated oven for 20-25 minutes. Serve warm preferably with butter and honey. They’d be great with chili, fish, or alone. Yummy.

You know how the cooking shows are always touting panko bread crumbs? Well there’s a reason for that. They make what ever you are frying A-mazing! I fried flounder (I know not the ideal fish for frying but it’s what I had on hand) with panko and yum-mee! It’s so easy too. Just dredge  your fish in seasoned flour (cayenne, garlic and onion powder, salt and pepper) then dip in a egg/milk bath and finally dip again in the panko crumbs. Fry in grapeseed oil (it has a very high smoke temp so it will brown your fish quickly). Serve with HOME-made tartar sauce (mayo, capers, shallots, sweet relish, worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, white vinegar) and voila! Tasty goodness in under 30 minutes.

Tell me if you try it. I’d love to know what someone else thinks!

Pinterest I love and hate you!

I too have fallen victim to Pinterest. I waste and inordinate amount of time perusing the never ending barrage of images. I get why it’s so popular. Everyone wants a voice, everyone wants needs inspiration and a laugh. The thing is … all these pictures of food are going to be the end of me. I have un-followed most of the “food, recipe” boards because it’s just too distracting to see all this food. I’m having a bear of a time controlling my appetite and all these pictures of food send me right to the kitchen to find one more thing to shove in my face. ARGH!  Last night there was a lovely picture of a lemon cake. I thought, wow, that looks good, I have those Meyer lemons in the fridge! I think I’ll go make one for myself. I did and it was GOOD. Of course I didn’t follow the recipe provided I just improvised based upon what they did.

LFH version of Meyer Lemon Cake

Here’s the recipe:
1 stick + 1 tbsp room temperature butter
1-1/4 cup sugar
3 eggs (room temp)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1-1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp lemon extract
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
Zest of one Meyer lemon
Juice of one Meyer lemon (appx 1/4 cup)

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and line the base of a cake pan with parchment paper.

Beat butter, lemon extract and sugar in a bowl until creamy and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition and beat until light and fluffy. Sift flour, salt, and baking powders over the egg mixture. Add zest and juice beating for a few seconds. Add buttermilk and mix until well combined.

Pour in prepared pan. Tap the pan on the worktop to settle the batter. Bake in preheated oven for approximately 50-60 minutes until golden and cooked through when tested with a skewer.

Stand cake for 5 minutes, then turn onto a cake plate or wire rack and cool completely.

Top with lemon glaze comprised of 1/2 cup powdered sugar and the juice of one Meyer lemon.

As you can see, this is easy and will take less than 1/2 hour to put together. It’s light and tender in texture. You will love it!