In My Kitchen – April 2017

In My Kitchen – April 2017

 

Eiffel Tower, Paris

After two weeks in lovely France, I am back in my kitchen. What a difference  just 14 days can make in the garden when it is spring! We have had (and continue to have) so much rain that it looks like a jungle. The plants haven’t look so lush and abundant in years. There are new herbs, lemons, and the first roses. My Lady Banks rose is growing rampantly up the back of the house onto the little upper deck. Lady Banks is a climbing rose with clusters of lightly scented yellow flowers, currently it  is enveloping the entire corner of the house! I can see it through the window from my kitchen. It is reliably the first rose to bloom each year.

Lady Banks rose

 

Lady Banks rose

Lady Banks rose

Jars of mint, oregano, and rosemary sitting in the center of my kitchen table, reminding me to use them to add flavor to spring dishes. Their scent is lovely.

I don’t usually buy tomatoes from the store this time of year, but these tempted me. As usual, I should have waited until July. Sigh. Tomatoes are one of the things I most crave by spring.

Spring herbs

I brought a few goodies back from Paris and Normandy with me, not much as we packed light and there wasn’t much room in the suitcases. Unfortunately customs would not allow me to bring back what I really wanted, an entire suitcase filled with cheese, pates and wine. As always the food in France was delicious, and I found it very reasonably priced compared to the US. We had kitchens in both places we stayed and did quite a lot of cooking of dinners while in Normandy. I will be writing a short post of our adventures.

In my kitchen I have two small jars of spreads we didn’t eat on our picnics. Since they are canned, customs didn’t care.

Rillettes Sardine

Duck Terrine

I shall open them as a pre dinner snack combined with a bottle of rose and crisp bread. Memories of our trip to be shared with our friends who accompanied us on the adventure.

In my kitchen I have some new dish towels, I was able to squeeze them into the suitcase by stuffing them in my boots.

French dish towels

French dish towel, isn’t it a lovely pattern?

In my kitchen I have a package of herbs de Provence. This is a favorite herb mixture of mine, absolutely delicious used with roasted vegetables, beans, chicken or lamb. This particular mix didn’t contain lavender, which I may add depending on the dish.

Herbs de Provence

In my kitchen I have a new soup/serving bowl from Heath Ceramics.

Heath Ceramics

They are a ceramic company based in Sausalito, this one has a wonderful organic look and feel to it. I plan to add to the collection slowly as they are quite expensive. Heath provides quite a few restaurants with their table ware.

Lastly, I arrived home to find two new cookbooks had been delivered in my absence.

Tartine All Day

Tartine All Day is the newest from Elisabeth Prueitt at Tartine Bakery in San Francisco. The Tartine Bakery website describes it as: An all-purpose, comprehensive cookbook with 200 recipes for the whole-foods way people want to eat and bake at home today, from James Beard Award-winning and best-selling author Elisabeth Prueitt, cofounder of San Francisco’s acclaimed Tartine Bakery.

Dinner Changing the Game

Dinner Changing the Game is by Melissa Clark, a frequent contributor to the food section of the New York Times. I look forward to her columns and this book looks very interesting. I’ve only just started browsing through this one but my mouth is already watering at the recipes. I look forward to sharing some with you on this site.

My mother used to say that if you got one really excellent recipe from a cookbook, it was worth buying. As I am a unrepentant collector, those are words I live by.

I’m linking this post to In My Kitchen, a worldwide community of bloggers hosted by Liz at Bizzy Lizzy’s Good Things. Take a peak to learn all the new things in kitchens around the world. And, we would love to see your own post added.

As a note, starting next month Sherry Mackay, from Sherry’s Pickings, has generously agreed to take over hosting IMK.

In My Kitchen – March 2017

In My Kitchen – March 2017

March is here and it’s time for the monthly In My Kitchen series. IMK posts give you glimpse into kitchens around the world. There are new cookbooks, new pots and pans, spices, flavorings, recipes, plus musings about cooking and the world. I think you will find the selection of posts fascinating. Stop by Liz’s blog to see the links. If you’d like to write an In My Kitchen post, send your link in a comment to Liz of Bizzy Lizzy’s Good Things by the 10th of the month.

In my kitchen I have a new tagine clay pot. This one is made by Emile Henry in France, they make very high quality ceramic cookware. You can use them directly on the stove (with the exception of induction) and in the oven.

I was first introduced to the joys of cooking in clay by Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Custard who is a very big fan.

  • The special clay from Burgundy evenly and slowly diffuses cooking heat to the very center of the dish. Food is cooked evenly, bringing out the flavors and aromas.
  • All Emile Henry products can go directly from the freezer to the oven. You can use them under the broiler and in the microwave.
  • The surfaces are very easily cleanable, they do not hold burnt food. All their products can go in the dishwasher.
  • All Emile Henry products meet the strict standards of California Prop 65, they do not contain any lead or cadmium and are 100% food safe.
  • All products come with a 10 year warranty.

Emile Henry Tajine

The tagine has been used for centuries in Morocco. In fact the name of the pot and that of the dishes it produces are the same. A tagine consists of chicken, lamb, fish and/or vegetables cooked in a sauce which is rich in spices and often contains fruit. Stewing food in a tagine helps it to cook evenly without drying out. The conical lid allows steam to rise, and slowly fall as the food inside bakes.

I made the same stew in both a tagine and a traditional casserole dish, the lamb cooked in the tagine was definitely more succulent although both were delicious. Look for those posts in the next week.

Lamb Tagine with Apricots

In my kitchen I have a couple of new cookbooks.

Tagines and Couscous by Ghillie Basan

I adore the spices used in Moroccan cooking and am looking forward to trying more recipes in my new pot. I will post the recipe for the lamb tagine, it was amazing!

In my kitchen I have another new cookbook, Small Victories by Julia Turshen.

Small Victories by Julia Turshen

I consider this a very practical cookbook, the recipes are fairly basic but include spin-offs for creating many new meals from the original. Each recipe also includes a tip that might be very useful (the small victory in the title), mastering the first recipe gives you access to many variations.

The recipe for turkey ricotta meatballs came from this book.

Turkey and Ricotta Meatballs with Tomato Sauce and Pasta

In my kitchen I have a new silicone spatula. i couldn’t resist it as we leave for Paris on the 23rd of this month, back in early April. Next months post may come from our vacation kitchen in France.

Silicone spatula

What is new in your kitchen this month?

February 2017 – In My Kitchen

February 2017 – In My Kitchen

I cannot imagine a more perfect place to make an announcement. I am officially retired, starting today February 1st! This is the very first day and here I am, posting after several months away. I am so excited! It has been a crazy 5 months at work, I was thrown directly into the fray when we returned from our Ireland hiking trip in September. It has absolutely consumed me. But, I don’t even want to think about work right now. Right now I want to talk about what is new in my kitchen and read what is new in your own.

If you’d like to write an In My Kitchen post, send your link to Liz of Bizzy Lizzy’s Good Things by the 10th of the month. And please stop by Liz’s blog to see and read the list of posts from kitchens around the world.

So, let’s get started!

To begin with, I have discovered sous vide. What is that? It is cooking under very carefully controlled temperatures in a water bath. Your food is encased in a food safe plastic bag and immersed in the warm water. You set the temperature of the water to the exact doneness you want the food, it cannot overcook. Sous vide translates as “under vacuum”.

Lamb chops, vacuum packed and ready for sous vide

Lamb chops, vacuum packed and ready for sous vide

You can then quickly sear the outside of your food in a very hot pan to brown and crisp it before serving.

Sous Vide

Sous Vide

I have wanted one for several years but they were terribly expensive, plus they were huge bulky appliances which took up too much space. This one is quite portable, clips on the side of any pot, and is easily stored. Even better the price has finally come down into the $200 range. I found them on sale before Christmas at $149, very reasonable. This small one is made by Joule, a company known for very high quality laboratory water baths. I have been experimenting with recipes, it is such a different approach. Don’t you think it is great fun to try a new technique? So far I have made a confit of chicken and duck with very little fat (and in only a few hours), chicken breasts which were marvelous (tender without a hint of dryness), lamb chops to die for, salmon steaks (no worry about overcooking), perfect carrots, and a few others. I will be posting recipes, so stay tuned. In the spirit of honesty I will admit to one failure, and the timing was unfortunate. I had volunteered to bring steaks to a holiday dinner party, the plan was to quickly finish them on the grill. They were not good at all although everyone was very polite. I know I shouldn’t try a new recipe when cooking for company, but I am entirely guilty of frequently disobeying the rule. I get so excited about a new recipe or method and want to immediately share it. Most of the time it turns out fine, not so much this time.

I think it was a problem with the steaks themselves. Expensive grass fed steaks do not always translate to delicious meat.

A second go was much more successful.

Joule Sous Vide

Joule Sous Vide

At our cabin in Fort Bragg, there is a new mini oven. Our old one gave up the ghost just before Christmas. It is very handy to have a second oven when entertaining. And, I find it is much more versatile than filling up the kitchen counter with a toaster and other appliances. It makes great toast.

New Breville Mini Oven

New Breville Mini Oven

In my kitchen I have tulips. It has been a wonderfully wet winter here and they are a sign of spring. I cannot grow tulips in the garden. They need more winter chill than we have, and the deer think they are a particular treat. These were a splurge when I saw them in the store. Aren’t they a lovely color?

Tulips

Tulips

In my kitchen, or rather on the kitchen table, we have plans and the beginning of lots of lists.

Plans for Fort Bragg Addition

Plans for Fort Bragg Addition

These are plans for a new bedroom and bath at our Fort Bragg house. The remodel was stage one, this is stage two with construction scheduled to start sometime in February. We will need a break in the rain before they can begin.

In my kitchen I have a new cookbook, this one by Diana Henry. I know she has been popular for some time and I cannot believe I just discovered her. This one was a James Beard award winner.

A Bird in the Hand by Diana Henry

A Bird in the Hand by Diana Henry

In my kitchen I have pu-erh tea. These little compacted teaspoons of fermented tea from China are individually wrapped. I love a dark tea but cannot drink English Breakfast without milk because it upsets my stomach. This tea is very dark and full flavored, but at the same time smooth and not tannic. One little cake will make an entire pot with refills.

Pu-erh tea

Pu-erh tea

Pu-erh Tea

Pu-erh Tea

And lastly in my kitchen I have seed catalogs. The beginnings of a small spring garden now that I will have some time to nurture it.

Seed Catalogs

Seed Catalogs

What is new in your kitchen this past month?

November 2016 – In My Kitchen

I’m back!!!! Back from Ireland, back from England, back from meetings in VA, back from my friend’s daughter’s wedding…whew! There has been a lot going on and most of it has not been in my kitchen. The situation is especially disappointing because I have a new kitchen in our cabin in Fort Bragg, I haven’t been able to spend much time there. But, lucky me, this whole week I am working remotely from the kitchen counter.

Early morning walk

Early morning walk, getting the day started on the right foot.

“In My Kitchen” (sometimes called IMK), is an ongoing series of posts from around the world. Our host is Liz at BizzyLizzyGoodThings. It is a wonderful chance to peek into other people’s kitchens, who doesn’t love being a fly on the wall? You will get some great ideas along the way as well.

This is going to be a quick post because the entries close on the 10th and I really want to take part this month. I will elaborate more on items in this post later.

I saw these silicone pot lids on a couple of blogs in the past few months and wanted to try them. They are really useful and create an airtight water-tight seal on any smooth rim surface, are microwave oven and dishwasher safe, and can be used to prevent stove-top splatters and retain steam while cooking. I purchased a set from Amazon, Charles Viancin Silicone Lids, and am finding them very useful for storing food in the fridge (no plastic wrap) and covering pots on the stove. They are pretty as well.img_5413

In my kitchen I have black garlic, all the way from Ireland. I was a little concerned getting them through customs but there were no problems. They are an ingredient I see mentioned more frequently but had not seen in the states yet. Black garlic is made when heads of regular garlic are aged under specialized conditions until the cloves turn inky black and develop a sticky date-like texture (from Bon Apetit). The aging brings out many rich subtleties, sweet and earthy minus heat.

Black Garlic

Black Garlic

I cannot wait to experiment, some say the flavor is like aged balsamic, prune, licorice, molasses, caramel, and tamarind.

October is my birthday month and cookbooks are a favorite present, I have some new ones and will be posting some representative recipes in the next few months.

New Cookbooks

New Cookbooks

 

In my kitchen I have this gorgeous gratin dish, a gift from Spain from the lovely woman for whom I hosted a wedding shower. Thank you Jamie.

Gratin Dish from Spain

Gratin Dish from Spain

There is lots to get caught up with and I am excited to be back. Meanwhile, cheers from Ireland.

Cheers from Ireland

Cheers from Ireland

September 2016 – In My Kitchen

September 2016 – In My Kitchen

This month “In My Kitchen” also known as IMK returns after a summer hiatus. We are glad to have Maureen back with us as our host, the community has missed her. This post is linked with Maureen The Orgasmic Chef and is part of a round-the-world look at what has been happening in our kitchens in August.

I must admit that for me, the answer in “not much”.  Summer is here and the living is easy, and I am not interested in spending hours in the kitchen. Summer for me means salads and grilled things, not complicated recipes. I reserve those for winter when warming dishes and long simmering braises are more the norm. That being said, there are a few new things in the pantry and wine cellar. August is the time for our annual trek to Ashland in Oregon for the Shakespeare Festival. We had some time to do shopping (which always means food) and wine tasting.

Bee nectar vinegar

Bee nectar vinegar

This balsamic and honey mixture is wonderful drizzled over roast vegetables.

This treat is a sweet balsamic in a fish egg sized package. They look like caviar and are incredible on a tomato and cucumber salad, little bursts of sweet and sourness.

Sweet and sour

Sweet and sour

A summer simple salad of sliced dry farmed Early Girl tomatoes, cucumbers from my own garden, avocado, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garnished with toasted pine nuts and sweet/sour granules.

Tomato, cucumber and avocado salad

Tomato, cucumber and avocado salad

Who needs more than a salad like this, some fresh cheese, and crisp bread? Add a bottle of rose or crisp white wine and it will be heaven or the world’s most perfect picnic.

A trip to Ashland would not be complete with out a visit to Ledger David.

Ledger David

Ledger David

A few antics after an afternoon of wine tasting.

Ledger David

Ledger David

We purchased a few bottles, of course.

And, we have been spending as much time as possible in our new kitchen on the California north coast, the cabin in Fort Bragg. Long walks have tired out the “mighty sisters”, Casey and Quinn, and are preparing us for this month’s hike coast-to-coast in Ireland. We leave this weekend. Yes, training has been taking a lot of my spare time and diminished much of my creative time for cooking although not my appetite.

High surf at Seaside Beach

High surf at Seaside Beach

Tired Casey

Tired Casey

Quinn doesn't look much fresher

Quinn doesn’t look much fresher

So, I won’t be posting much on this blog for a few weeks while we away. I will be back in late September or early October with travel stories to tell and pictures of food along the way. Stay tuned and please, gentle readers, don’t leave. I’m excited about the creativity that will be sparked by my travels.