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Posts Tagged ‘oregano’

Since I last wrote in this blog, a lot has happened.  My husband and I moved to the city and renovated a very old craftsman bungalow.  It is a beautiful old home with lots of character, complete with a big yard in the back.  I used to live on a hill and longed for a garden.  I wanted so much to run outside and pluck some plump and delicious produce from my well tended garden, but the hill prevented these dreams.  This was no minor, politely rolling hill, but a steep grade that hosted daring children in ice and snow storms.  Jon rolled down the hill and lost his phone one year while trying to move the sprinkler.  This hill was not going to be the home of a garden. 

Now I have a wonderfully large and somewhat flat yard, and I have many dreams for my future garden.  There were some time constraints surrounding the development of a summer garden, so for this season Jon and I dug up some grass in the sunniest part of our yard, mixed in some decent soil, and stuck some vegetable plants in the ground.  Finally, FINALLY, we were working on our garden!  Now, my idealistic visions were slightly interrupted by the fact that our soil was peppered with things like giant stones, bricks, axe heads, railroad ties, bullets, glass, and other similar items.  There’s nothing like digging your hands into God’s green earth and pulling out a six inch long nail.  Furthermore, giant wisteria vines, some over six inches in diameter, are snaking their way through our entire yard, creating an underground subway system of inexplicable vine growth.  These had to be hacked through mercilessly.  Did I mention that the previous owner of our home was a hoarder and that our yard was filled with multiple cars and other piles of mystery items?  Couple this with the fact that my neighborhood is affectionately dubbed “the hood” for all of the reasons that you may imagine, and perhaps you can now understand the interesting components of my native backyard soil.

Nonetheless, Jon and I planted, and we have been carefully tending and watching our little garden.  I have been imagining all of the things that I will make with the tomatoes from my ten or so plants – roasted tomatoes, tomato pies, tomato sauces, salsas and salads.  I have been envisioning future appetizers of squash blossoms stuffed with ricotta and herbs and fried lightly, eaten as soon as they’re cool enough while standing at the stove, and pizzas delicately adorned with the bright golden blossoms spread out against the backdrop of my freshly made tomato sauce.  Alas, this dream is still out of my reach.  There is a tree at the edge of my property that is determined to shade my entire yard with its low hanging, intrusive branches.  At the pace my garden is growing, I will have tomatoes in 2015.  Meanwhile, my friend Becky experimented with a new, mutant soil formulation that is growing mutant vegetables.  Her plants are freakishly large and robust; the fruit of these vines astoundingly large and healthy.  You could fan someone with her squash blossoms.  The vegetables that they planted in the regular soil and manure mixture remain relatively normal, growing at a polite but steady pace.  The mutant soil is producing wild plants with giant fruit.  It is with these superplant squash blossoms that I made the delicious pizza below. 

This is a wonderful early summer pizza, redolent with floral notes and a brightness that is punctuated with oregano, marjoram and lemon zest.  This is not my usual flavor profile; you won’t get punched in the face with garlic or lemon.  There is no meat on this pizza.  Instead, it is a beautiful little work of art, with creamy ricotta and flavors that are light enough to make up for the fact that when you eat this pizza, a lot of it will end up on your hands and cheeks.  It is as messy as it is beautiful and delicious.  When I made it, I imagined that I was using my own tomato sauce and squash blossoms.  No matter – I look forward to my fall garden when I use the x-man soil that Becky has been using, complete with butter nut squashes the size of guitars and onions the size of boulders…

Squash Blossom Pizza

  • Pizza dough (I used good quality store bought; I have not mastered the elusive art of dough making)
  • One small can of unsalted tomato sauce (future recipes for homemade tomato sauce to appear when I have my tomatoes in 2015)
  • One clove of garlic, gently smashed
  • One splash of red wine, if you have it
  • A handful of squash blossoms, at least six to eight depending on size
  • About one tbsp each of fresh, chopped oregano and marjoram (don’t skip this!)
  • About ¾ cup of part skim ricotta cheese (or use full fat but definitely NOT non-fat)
  • About 1 tsp lemon zest
  • Olive oil, kosher salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes

 

    1. Preheat your oven, and a pizza stone if you have it, to at least 450 (or even 500) degrees.
    2. While the oven is heating and when your dough is almost done rising, pour a small can of tomato sauce into a small sauce pan, add a generous pinch of kosher salt, one smashed garlic clove and a splash of red wine to the pan.  Bring to a simmer and stir a few times, and remove from heat when nicely warmed through.
    3. Let the dough rise for at least an hour, flour your work surface, and do your best to stretch it out to pizza size, taking care to fill any holes that develop in the middle of the dough.  I try to stretch the dough gently with my hands instead of rolling out with a rolling pin, since the Italians will disdain you for using a rolling pin and they are the ones who invented pizza.  Don’t worry about the shape of your pizza; perfectly round is perfectly boring.  Putting the dough on parchment paper will assist you with transferring it to the stone or pan for the oven.  The parchment paper can survive the heat of the oven and still allow the bottom of the pizza to crisp nicely.
    4. Lightly dress the pizza dough with the tomato sauce, spreading gently with the back of a ladle.  It is not necessary to drown the dough with the sauce.
    5. Spread the squash blossoms gently onto the pizza dough in a sunburst or sunflower shape.  Brush them as well as the edges of the crust with a little olive oil. Scatter the pizza lightly with some red pepper flakes for a punctuation of heat.
    6. Place the pizza in the oven and bake for about eight minutes, or until the sides of the crust are nicely browned and puffy.
    7. While the pizza is in the oven, mix the ricotta cheese with some salt, pepper and the lemon zest.  Form the ricotta into little caneles and set aside.  I’m sure you can find a Youtube showing how to do this; if you’re not into the caneles, be prepared to schmear the cheese on the pizza in generous dollops.
    8. When the pizza is done, place the caneles between the squash blossoms, evenly in a circle around the pizza.   Scatter the pizza with the chopped herbs and drizzle with good quality olive oil. 
    9. Eat this pizza and dream about the ways in which digging in the soil and eating from our own “land” connects us with something good and true and ancient.

Kerri and Alyssa; thank you for inspiring me to start my blog again.  I hope you enjoy.

Don’t skip ANY of the ingredients; in a recipe this light and simple, they all add a necessary component to the overall taste and flavor.  Omitting any of them would take away from the harmonious tastes. 

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I’ve just returned from a week of travel, and the refrigerator is a tad bare.  But I’m hungry.  And we need to eat lunch.  There’s half a shallot from last night, some feta cheese that is still good, a jar of roasted red peppers, and four eggs.  A rummage through the fruit drawer leads me to two lone grapefruits.  Ladies and gentlemen – we have a lunch!

It is very interesting how some of the most delicious things that I’ve eaten for lunch have been discovered through the use of odds and ends ingredients and the benefit of a well stocked pantry and spice cabinet.  I will never forget the day the kitchen sink eggwich changed my life… 

Anyway, as I was sauteeing the red peppers, shallots and garlic, I added a little pinch of dried basil and a little pinch of dried oregano.  Everything was smelling fragrant and delicious.  I started feeling sassy and added a splash of dry sherry to deglaze the pan and WOW.  Sherry and eggs and shallot and garlic and feta and basil and oregano and roasted red peppers equate to very, very tasty and wonderful scrambled eggs.  The salty feta is such a wonderful counterpoint to the other flavors.  I think my humble little eggs felt very fancy with the addition of that dry sherry.

Now if we ever have any fancy people show up for brunch, I’ll serve them these scrambled eggs; they’re the best I’ve ever had.  In the meantime, I plan to add this to the regular rotation, finished with two juicy little grapefruits drizzled with honey or any other fruits hanging out lonely in the fruit drawer.  A handful of lettuce tossed in vinaigrette will also make a very tasty addition. 

scrambled eggs – fancy pants style

serves two

  • two cloves of garlic, minced
  • one small shallot or half of one large shallot, chopped
  • one roasted red pepper, chopped
  • four eggs, cracked into a bowl and whisked with a splash of milk, salt and pepper
  • a pinch of dried basil
  • a pinch of dried oregano
  • about two tbsp of dry sherry
  • about 1/3 cup of crumbled feta
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • a splash of extra virgin olive oil
  1. heat a non-stick pan over medium heat and add enough olive oil to thinly coat; add the garlic, shallots and roasted red peppers, and cook until just beginning to brown – stir regularly to prevent the garlic from burning
  2. slowly pour in the sherry, stirring to coat the vegetables (you should hear the sherry sizzle in the pan)
  3. reduce the heat to low and add the eggs, stirring constantly around the edge of the pan to gently “scramble” the eggs
  4. when the eggs have reached their desired consistency, gently stir in the feta
  5. garnish with some chopped chives or parsley if you have fancy people dining with you

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Lately, a lot of people have asked me to write them a weekly menu and corresponding grocery list.  Unfortunately, I haven’t had the time to do this (or write the post on my latest dining experiences in Texas, my first post on “beauty,” starring Ella and Ava, or the post I’ve been planning on my favorite market…).  My insane schedule does not line up with my desire for slow living!  I suppose the next best thing is to post what we are eating for dinner tonight…something simple, healthy and supremely delicious for a weeknight dinner. 

As usual, I don’t recall where this recipe came from – as always, I’m sure I have made a few modifications.  The recipe is still scribbled in one of my “food” notebooks, but now the contents reside in my head.  While the ingredient list may seem bizarre or unappealing, do not be deterred.  These flavors and spices come together beautifully for a moist and delicious dish.  I’m sure that the recipe is to serve four, but I still make all of the extra sauce and topping for two.  I love EXTRA flavor! 

When I’m preparing this for two, I split one chicken breast between us and bake in a loaf pan; this way all of the juices don’t disappear.  I’m sure this would be very tasty served over couscous or quinoa, but I just pair it with some roasted carrots.  I have served this many times for guests in my home; it is a hit every time. 

garlic lime chicken and olives

  • 1 lb boneless chicken breast halves (or less if you’re like me and split one chicken breast for two – skinny AND economical)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 to 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • fresh juice of one lime
  • 1 tbsp of molasses (not black strap – don’t skip this step – so tasty!)
  • 2 tsp worsteshire sauce
  • 1/2 tsp of cumin (or more if you really love this flavor)
  • 1 heaping tsp of dried oregano
  • kosher salt and black pepper, to taste (at least 1/2 tsp of each)
  • 1/2 cup of sliced, pitted black olives (I alternate between kalamata and plain black olives)
  1. coat a roasting pan or baking dish (or loaf pan for a small group) with oil or cooking spray
  2. combine all ingredients, except for olives in a bowl
  3. stir and add chicken
  4. pour the olives over and around chicken
  5. roast at 400 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes

roasted carrots

  • carrots, peeled and cut into 2 inch chunks (amount of carrots depending on how many people you’re serving)
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • thyme or rosemary (dried or fresh)
  • red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar
  1. add your carrots to a baking dish and toss with a generous amount of olive oil, a few splashes of vinegar, and a generous sprinkle of herbs, salt and pepper
  2. roast, tightly covered in foil at 400 degrees for 25 minutes
  3. remove the foil and roast for 10 minutes more

note: I use balsamic vinegar paired with rosemary and red wine vinegar paired with thyme

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My Mom was inspired from my post about trout almandine and prepared a letter and a few recipes for the blog.  I am delighted to share them!  However, the main ingredient is a bit of a stretch for me personally.  I am still steadfast in my goal be a tad more adventurous in the meat department, but turtle?  I like turtle.  We had a little turtle that visited our backyard regularly, and I took pictures of her.  How can I eat turtle?  Turtles are cute; thus nullifying their qualification as food (see my previous post on this matter).  Nonetheless, the recipe deserves to be shared.  Please note that Mom (aka Mimi) has shared some of her own notes following the recipes.  Enjoy!

From Paula:

Your blog about your “meat issues” reminded me of when I first moved to New Orleans from Southern California – talk about meat shock! Nothing was the same, the types of seafood and meat were totally different, and the way to cook everything was totally different, even the way people talked was totally different…I had a lot to learn.

I worked in a high rise office on Poydras Street and would go out to lunch with groups of “natives” who thought it was their sacred duty to introduce me to the cuisine of the Crescent City. Some days I was happier with the introduction than others. (We will not discuss my first look at a boiled out crab carcass in my first bowl of seafood gumbo. Your dad was there, he saw the horror on my face! It produced reoccurring nightmares for years. It’s a good thing Turtle Soup isn’t made from those teensy little turtles they used to sell at the pet store…talk about finding an unwelcome shell in your soup…but I digress.)

Anyway, one of the things best things I was introduced to during that time was Turtle Soup, a New Orleans specialty. I first had it at Galatoire’s Restaurant in the French Quarter.  Back in the day, you had to wait in line outside the restaurant for a table. I remember that it was a windy fall day and I had to hold my dress down to keep it from blowing over my head! Once we were inside I was overwhelmed by the grandeur of this truly elegant restaurant and nervous about whether I could afford to eat here.

One of the guys in the group (the late, great Frank Fetter) decided that he was going to order for me and wouldn’t take no for an answer. I was pretty panicked about it and told him that if he was going to order then he was going to pay! I didn’t have the money for food experimentation at one of the most expensive restaurants in town! Well, he took me up on it and I was stuck with his choices…in hindsight, it was one of the best moves I ever made because it introduced me to two of my most favorite dishes ever, Turtle Soup and Shrimp Remoulade. Frankly, I don’t remember the rest of the meal because I was so entranced by these two dishes.

For years after, at every restaurant in New Orleans that served it, I ordered Turtle Soup. Every recipe was different – thickness, clarity of broth, ingredients – the only constants were turtle meat, sherry and chopped hard boiled eggs. Some stirred the eggs and sherry into the soup, some garnished the soup with the eggs chopped fine and served the sherry on the side in an elegant cruet. My eventual favorite ended up being the Turtle Soup from Commander’s Palace. As for the shrimp, no one ever topped that first Shrimp Remoulade from Galatoire’s. Here are the recipes from both restaurants for my favorite soup and favorite shrimp dish. I have not altered these recipes in any way, why mess with perfection?

 

Shrimp Remoulade – recipe and comments from Galatoires.com 

 

Shrimp Rémoulade is in every New Orleans girl’s arsenal of favored dishes for relaxed entertaining. Serve this simple dish on elegant china and its fit for a king- Mardi Gras or otherwise. This is our most popular dish and most frequently requested recipe. Bonus for the home cook: The sauce is definitely best made a day in advance and refrigerated, then all that’s left to do is toss in the shrimp and plate and serve. It’s a snap to make, yet it’s always impressive.

 

¾ cup chopped celery

¾ cup chopped scallions (white and green parts)

½ cup chopped curly parsley

1 cup chopped yellow onion

½ cup ketchup

½ cup tomato purée

½ cup Creole mustard or any coarse, grainy brown mustard

2 tablespoons prepared horseradish, or to taste

 ¼ cup red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons Spanish hot paprika

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

½ cup salad oil

4 dozen jumbo (15 count) shrimp, peeled, boiled, and chilled

1 small head of iceberg lettuce, washed, dried and cut into thin ribbons 

 

Mince the celery, scallions, parsley, and onions in a food processor. Add the ketchup, tomato puree, Creole mustard, horseradish, red wine vinegar, paprika, and Worcestershire. Begin processing again and add the oil in a slow drizzle to emulsify. Stop when the dressing is smooth. Chill for 6 to 8 hours or overnight. Correct the seasoning with additional horseradish, if desired after the ingredients have had the opportunity to marry.

In a large mixing bowl, add the sauce to the shrimp and toss gently to coat. Divide the lettuce among 6 chilled salad plates. Divide the shrimp evenly atop the lettuce and serve.

 

Mimi’s Note: The chilled iceberg lettuce ribbons are essential – they taste delicious with the sauce and shrimp bites – it cools the sauce down a bit and compliments the taste of the shrimp.

 

 

Turtle Soup – recipe from CommandersPalace.com

Chef’s Note: We use alligator snapping turtles, which is a farm-raised fresh water species available all year long. Turtle meat usually comes in 2 ½ pound portions. This soup freezes well. Makes 5 servings

Mimi’s Note: Freshwater turtle meat (either snapper or soft shell) is usually available at Asian markets. Both of these meats are legal when purchased from a licensed turtle meat supplier or retailer. Other types of turtle meat may or may not be legal depending on the state you live in. Salt water turtle meat is strictly illegal in the USA. Salt water turtles are highly endangered! Don’t eat them! If you cannot find turtle meat locally, it is available at 1-800-Steaks.com in 1# and 5# quantities, also from marxfoods.com in a 5# bucket. Thaw and cook it all, then refreeze for future use in small portions. Be prepared, turtle meat is pricey!  If you cannot find veal stock locally, veal demi-glace to make the veal stock is available from dartagnan.com and morethangourmet.com. Concassee tomatoes are tomatoes without skin or seeds, it is a process, not a type of tomato!  A great explanation on how to do this is at kitchensavvy.com. By the way, it sounds harder to do than it really is.

1 ½ sticks butter
2 ½ pounds turtle meat, medium dice
2 medium onions, medium dice
6 stalks celery, medium dice
1 large head garlic, cloves peeled and minced
3 bell peppers, medium dice
1 tablespoon dried thyme, ground
1 tablespoon dried oregano, ground
4 bay leaves
2 quarts veal stock
1 cup flour
26 oz. dry sherry (750 ml bottle)
1 tablespoon hot sauce
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
2 large lemons, juiced
3 cups concassée tomatoes
10 oz fresh spinach, stems removed, washed 3 times, coarsely chopped
6 medium eggs, hard-boiled and chopped into large pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a large soup pot over medium to high heat. Brown the meat in the hot butter, season with salt and pepper, and cook for about 18 to 20 minutes, or until liquid is almost evaporated. Add onions, celery, garlic, and peppers, stirring constantly, then add the thyme, oregano, and bay leaves and sauté for about 20 to 25 minutes, until the vegetables have caramelized. Add the stock, bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, periodically skimming away any fat that comes to top.

While stock is simmering, make a roux in a separate pot: Melt the remaining 8 tablespoons of butter over medium heat in a small saucepan and add the flour a little at a time, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Be careful not to burn the roux. After all the flour has been added, cook for about 3 minutes until the roux smells nutty, is pale in color, and has the consistency of wet sand. Set aside until the soup is ready.

Using a whisk, vigorously stir the roux into the soup a little at a time to prevent lumping. Simmer for about 25 minutes. Stir to prevent sticking on the bottom.

Add the sherry, bring to a boil, and add the hot sauce and the Worcestershire, and simmer, skimming any fat or foam that comes to the top. Add the lemon juice and tomatoes, and return to a simmer. Add the spinach and the chopped egg, bring to simmer, and adjust salt and pepper as needed. This soup freezes well.

Chef’s Note: Caramelize the vegetables and meats thoroughly, by cooking until the natural sugars form a thick dark liquid, to get a nice dark color.
Remember, this soup is like a stew and could be eaten as a main dish. Because of its thickness, prepare it in a heavy pot, and stir frequently to avoid burning.

Mimi’s Note: NEVER use “Cooking Sherry”, it contains a large amount of salt so that it can be sold legally on a regular grocery aisle. Remove the bay leaves; they shouldn’t ever be left in the pot to be accidentally ingested. Also, I like to garnish with a small amount of finely chopped egg with a small green leaf like a celery leaf. Serve with extra sherry on the side to suit individual taste. If serving as a main dish, serve a hot, crispy French baguette with the meal so that everybody can soak up the meaty goodness.

 

 

 

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