Sunday, September 28, 2014

Chinese Five Spice Shrimp on a Bed of Red Cabbage

The Baker and our boys were away last week.  They had an all-male trip to Poland.  Andrew took care of everything.  I didn't have to do a thing but worry.  Adam would be traveling from San Francisco, Stefan from Boston and Andrew from Chicago.  How on earth were they going to end up in Warsaw within an hour of one another?  They did!  Whew!  They were there.  They were having fun.  I was at home toiling away (those of you who know differently, please don't make mention)!  No worries--until awakening on Friday morning to hear that Midway and O'Hare were closed down and reopening was nowhere in sight!  Time to start worrying again!  Andrew was due into Chicago at 3:20 p.m. on Saturday.  It was time to start checking flight status and figuring out a quick meal for dinner.  It all worked out.  Andrew was half an hour late.  While he unpacked, I put together this delicious recipe.  It was inspired by an appetizer from a favorite neighborhood restaurant, Lucrezia's.  They serve the shrimp over braised red cabbage and add a lemon sauce to the shrimp.  I, instead, used Chinese Five Spice and thought it quite good.

Chinese Five Spice Shrimp on a Bed of Red Cabbage

For 2

1/2 pound medium shrimp, shell and tails removed
2 tsp Chinese Five Spice powder
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp canola oil
Large clove of garlic, chopped
1/4 cup dry white wine

16 ounce jar of pickled red cabbage

1.  In a saute pan, heat the oil over medium heat.
2.  Dry the shrimp and sprinkle with the Chinese Five Spice, salt and pepper.  Toss to coat evenly.
3.  Add shrimp to the hot oil and sauté for two minutes, turning several times.
4.  Add the chopped garlic to the pan and sauté for one minute longer.
5.  Add the wine and simmer for another minute--just until the shrimp are opaque.
6.  Place about 3/4 cup of the cabbage in a shallow bowl and spoon the shrimp over.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Butternut Bisque Redux

There are still tomatoes on the windowsill but I felt the need to usher in autumn with a favorite of ours, this butternut bisque.  It was nice to find butternut, acorn squash and pumpkins nestled in with great pots of mums at the Saturday market.  Delicate summer squash is always welcome on the table but the heartier squashes lend themselves to bolder preparation.  The combination of squash and apples is a marriage made in soup heaven!!  As the days grow colder and we draw indoors, it's a great comfort to know that there's something in the freezer just in case of a blizzard.  Hmmm, it is just early, early fall and now I'm thinking blizzard??  Here's what I'm getting to--double the recipe and freeze half.  Just omit sherry and cream before freezing and make a note on the container to add it before serving.  This is a bisque worthy of a starter for company or for two in front the fire on a Sunday afternoon.

Butternut Bisque adapted from a Chicago Tribune Magazine 
(six servings)

2 medium butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds)
4 Tbsp butter
1 large sweet onion, peeled and chopped
1/2 tsp powdered ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 quart of chicken stock
2 medium Granny Smith apples peeled, cored and diced
1/4 cup dry sherry
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste

1.  Heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Cut butternut squash in half, scoop out seeds and rub with olive oil.  Place, skin side down, in a pan and roast for about 45 minutes until slightly softened.  Cool.  Cut away  the skin and rough chop.
2.  Melt the butter in a heavy Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add onion, ginger and cinnamon.  Saute, stirring constantly, until the onions are translucent.
3.  Add the chicken stock, squash and apples.  Bring to a boil then lower to a simmer.  Cook until the squash and apples are very soft.
4.  Cool the mixture slightly.
5.  Puree the mixture with a stick blender or a regular blender.
6.  Stir in the sherry, heavy cream and salt and pepper to taste.
7.  Return all to the pot and heat through.


Saturday, September 20, 2014

Last Weekend of Summer and Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes

We haven't always been midwesterners.  As newlyweds, we made our first home in La Jolla, CA.
La Jolla has, what many would say, the perfect climate.  Just north of San Diego, it is cooled by  Pacific breezes.  Winter isn't much different.  The only time we turned the furnace on was the mid-October day we brought our newborn son home.  We turned it off after a few hours and never turned it on again in the four years we lived there.  I could stand on the upstairs balcony and see snow on the distant mountains in winter.  At Thanksgiving and Christmas, we closed the blinds, lit a fire in the fireplace and pretended there was snow.  I, who grew up in the Shenandoah Valley, missed the changing seasons--a lot!

This summer has reminded me of those La Jolla days.  Only a few days registered a 90 degree temperature.  We've enjoyed having windows open instead of turning on the air conditioning.  The rains have been enough to keep the grass green.  Only pots of plants have needed watering.  Vegetable farmers have had a rough go because the weather has not been conducive to growing many things.  My favorite farmer has been able to keep us supplied with enough tomatoes to make me happy.  This is the last weekend of summer.  The next farmers' market will be in early June.  No more of these jeweled heirloom cherry tomatoes until then.

Wishing you all a great end-of-summer weekend.  May your football team win unless they are playing my team.  May you have the last of summer's bountiful fruits and vegetables on your table!!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Crock Pot: Potato Soup or Vichyssoise or Not?

Thanks to all for your helpful suggestions.  I finally purchased a crock pot.  Since I planned to use it mostly for soups right now, I went with a basic Rival pot because it looked good.  The insert is black.  The outside is silver.  It has a Hi and a Low setting and a lid to see through.  It was cheap!

There are times when I follow a soup recipe fairly well.  Most times, I don't.  So, going with what was on hand, I give you the first effort.  On hand:  Two medium sized leeks, one large sweet onion, one large shallot and two cloves of garlic.  I sliced all the bulbs thinly and sautéed them in a little olive oil, adding the garlic the last minute.  I scraped all into the crock pot, added one large russet potato, peeled and diced, and four cups of chicken stock and a bay leaf.  Most recipes for anything in the pot say "cook on low".  Hmmm, o.k.!

Fairly soon, the pot was bubbling away and the house was filled with delicious aromas.  It was a comfortable feeling thinking all that was left before eating the soup was a quick puree and the addition of milk or half and half.  Some salt and pepper to taste.  I used the immersion blender and pureed it right in the pot.  I tasted.  It wasn't good!  I added more salt, a salt-free blend and pepper.  Then a cup of milk/half and half.  We had a bowl of tolerable potato soup.  There was quite a bit leftover (as planned for the freezer).  Should it just be tossed out?  NO!  The Baker came to the rescue!  I had a late afternoon meeting.  He said he'd take care of dinner.

I give you the once insipid soup after he added about a cup of grated sharp cheddar, heated until the cheese melted and the soup was piping hot.  He topped with crispy bacon bits.


The "paragraph-style recipe" is a throwback to Gourmet when I started subscribing.  One had to read the whole recipe to glean out the ingredients.  It was annoying!  I think it was in the mid-80s before they started listing ingredients at the beginning of a recipe.  So much better.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Still Summer

Sunday was a beautiful day in Chicago.  It was a clear and sunny day.  Big puffy clouds enticed one to find shapes in them.  I picked out a rabbit but Andrew just couldn't see it.  Boats still bobbed in Lake Michigan.  They'll soon be put into dry dock or go wherever boats go in the winter.  There was a chill in the air.  Early morning shadows were longer.  Evidence that we have only one more week of summer.

Lakeshore Drive early Sunday morning.

We were headed to Whole Foods.  The store can be jam-packed on Sundays so we go early.  Not as early as this Sunday though.  Parking on the second level, the doors weren't even open.  The sign said 8 a.m. and it was 8 a.m..  We waited patiently for fifteen minutes.  Andrew finally took the "employee only" elevator down and told someone about the problem.  He came back up the escalator and through the door.  When we headed back to the door, it wouldn't open.  Hmmmm!  Another ten minutes before we go in.  This is so unlike Whole Foods.  The young man who finally opened the door explained that there was a new security guard and someone failed to show him how the doors were to be opened.  He apologized and we were on our way.  First, some breakfast at the "diner".  Excellent omelet and very good coffee.  We then split up for shopping.   Andrew is a "get what is on the list" shopper.  I am a "list user/shelf shop" shopper.  As usual, I finished first.  We meet in the coffee shop.  I was sipping my coffee and people watching when the young man who had let us in walked over.  He again apologized.  I assured him there was no harm done.  He then handed me a gift card.  I assumed it was for a cup of coffee.  When I got home, I checked it out.  It is a $20.00 gift card.  Classy act!

We picked up our whole dinner from the carryout section.  All we had to do was plate it and settle into viewing The Roosevelts.  

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Farm to Table

In less than two weeks, summer will pass into fall.  That's o.k..  Fall is my favorite season.  If only it didn't mean the end of our farmers' market.  Saturday afternoons will not find our kitchen windowsills lined with red, green, yellow and orange tomatoes.  Crunchy little cucumbers will not be available for   salads or snacking.  Those lovely green beans that ask for only a little steaming before coming to the table will be but a delicious memory.  It will take a while to adjust!  In the meantime, I'm thinking of every way possible to enjoy it all.

The Baker was enlisted to shop the market this past Saturday.  He's usually very good at selecting produce.  For some reason, he must have had a lapse in judgment and thought soft tomatoes meant ripe tomatoes.  Oh dear!  Thank goodness, only three were almost overripe.

 I turned them into a jeweled bruschetta.

It just so happened there were three tomatoes needing to be eaten right away--a red, an orange and a green one.  I chopped them up along with some basil.  Thick French bread, rubbed with garlic and brushed with olive oil was the perfect base.  

I hope you find yourself in the same predicament sometime.  It's a delicious place to be.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Southern Biscuits on a Summer Sunday Morning

Since I don't want to start right off talking about the weather, let me just say:  How about those Hokies?  A goodly number of my Virginia relatives were at Ohio State to cheer the team on and were rewarded with a big win.  A few remarked on how gracious the OS fans were--before and after the game.  I'm sorry to say that Andrew and I missed the exciting last quarter.  Death in Paradise was on PBS and we couldn't miss the last episode.

Now, the weather.  It is 60 degrees this morning and going up to the mid-70s later.  Perfect!  We celebrated Virginia Tech's win and the weather with a southern (or any place you might be) Sunday breakfast.  

The Baker baked the biscuits.  He has, in my opinion, perfected the biscuit.  The recipe is a combination of recipes that he has worked on for several years.  It might sound odd for one to need to work so hard on such a southern staple.  Remember, he isn't southern!  Whatever, I hope he stops experimenting because this is a winner.


2 cups of cake flour
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
5 Tbsp very cold butter
1 cup plain yogurt

Oven 450
1.  Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.  Cut the butter into small pieces and cut into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender until very well blended.  
2.  Stir in the yogurt just enough to form a ball.  You might need a bit more than a cup.  If so, add slowly until the right consistency to form a ball.  If, on the other hand, the dough is too sticky, add a bit more flour.
3.  On a lightly floured board, press (never roll out) into an approximate 3/4 inch-rectangle and cut into 2-inch rounds.  Place on an ungreased baking sheet.  Reshape the leftover dough and cut out more.  You should have 10 to 14 biscuits.  
4.  Bake 7 to 9 minutes.  Your aim is a golden brown biscuit.
5.  Slather with butter (yes, more butter) and jam.