In My Kitchen – July 2017

In My Kitchen – July 2017

Can you believe we are on the downward slope of the year? It’s July, oh my goodness. And it’s one of my favorite times of the month, time for another “In My Kitchen” post. This one will be linked with the rest of the IMK bloggers through Sherry at Sherry’s Pickings. Click on the link to read the stories of kitchen adventures around the world.

There are lots of new things in my kitchen, starting with this lovely tea towel a friend brought back to me from her trip to Iceland.

Iceland tea towel

Also new is the hedgehog scrubber I saw at the store, I couldn’t resist. It is very flexible so gets into the corners of a pan and is safe for non-stick surfaces.

Hedgehog scrubber

Are you familiar with Yotam Ottolenghi? He is the inspiration behind the London restaurants Ottolenghi and NOPI, and has written several vegetarian cook books. They include Plenty, Plenty More and Jerusalem. His recipes have a wonderful mix of new spices, exotic ingredients, and methods (at least to me), many of them coming from the middle east. He now has a column in the New York Times Wednesday food section. In one last month he discussed Tahini, giving a review and recommendation of brands. I must admit to being a tahini ignoramus. Although I use it often, I had no idea that I was buying an inferior brand. Usually there is only one brand available at the store. Al Arz was one of the brands he uses in his restaurants, I found it on Amazon and immediately purchased a couple of jars. Oh my!!! What a difference! My eyes have been opened.

Tahini Sauce

His cookbooks use a number of items that are not familiar to me. When I saw these dried Black Lemon Omani, I immediately purchased a bag. So far I have dropped one into a braised chicken dish where they added a gentle citrus flavor. I will be doing more experimenting.

Dried Lemons

Baked Chicken with Thai flavors and Dried Lemons

Also in my kitchen the month is this strange fruit which looks like something out of a horror movie. It was at Trader Joe’s and I had to try it. The guy next to me just opened a package and took one out to eat, but I was too well brought up to do the same and purchased a whole package containing about 10. They are called ranbutan. Once you peel off the hairy shell (it is soft), a silver colored fruit that looks like a lychee is revealed. It has a pit and tastes a bit like a lychee. Have any of you tried it? I am not sure I am a fan, ok but not great.

Ranbutan

New in my kitchen is this charming tea cup with a strainer inside. I have been drinking more loose herb teas and this cup makes it very convenient to brew just one cup.

Tea Cup and Infuser

I fell for the green grass on the outside. It reminds me of the meadow at our cabin on the coast.

Not new at all are these glasses that belonged to my grandparents.

Antique Glasses

They are absolutely lovely, very fine crystal. But we are trying to downsize and my heart is broken. I am not sure I can bear to part with them but the glass size is very small compared to more modern wine glasses. This set also contains glasses for sherry and port, which we do not often drink. Storage space is going to be at a premium.

In my kitchen are the first figs from one of my two container trees on the deck. I hope to plant these trees in Fort Bragg once I find the perfect spot. These are perfectly ripe and I only just managed to collect them before the squirrels. Figs don’t ripen once you harvest them so having a backyard tree is a luxury. It is only a little tree but there are dozens of fruit ripening.

Figs

In my kitchen is the first strawberry jam of the year. In past years I would have already been preserving like crazy but this year has been busy.

In lastly but certainly not least, in my kitchen are my constant companions, always ready in case of an accidental spill or dropped treat.

Casey and Quinn

What’s new in your kitchen?

June – In My Kitchen

June – In My Kitchen

At long last I have some things to write about for the In My Kitchen blogging group; truthfully there hasn’t been a lot going on in my kitchen these last couple of months, at least not in the way of interesting food news. We’ve been away on holiday; and when home, involved with the upgrades to our cabin in Fort Bragg. It is finally becoming a real house and not just a holiday cabin. Our contractor has assured us that the new addition will be completed sometime in July, we shall see. Meanwhile the construction team has made real progress now that the rain has stopped. I will be posting pictures of the new bedroom and bath soon, but it doesn’t have much to do with the kitchen so please humor me. After the construction completion, comes the creation of a real garden, both vegetable and ornamental. That will be my own project and I am looking forward to getting my hands in the dirt.

Last weekend I hosted a wedding shower, a real English tea for a good friend’s daughter.

Roses from Wedding Shower

The garden roses put on their best show for table decorations, and I got to appreciate them for a few days after it was over.

Also left over were a few (not many) sandwiches and tea cakes. The mother of the groom made the desserts and they were well worth any extra calories. Aren’t they beautiful?

Tea Cakes

She is a genius and is also planning to bake the wedding cake.

Shower Desserts

We made a big selection of tea sandwiches. All of the usual kinds were represented…egg salad, cucumber and cream cheese, smoked salmon, goat cheese and fig spread, and goat cheese with olive spread.

Tea Sandwiches

Tea Sandwiches

More Tea Sandwiches

I made a few spreads and dips. Cashew hummus and almond sesame were hits. I will be posting the recipes.

Cashew Hummus

Almond Sesame and Curry Dip

Crudites

Also leftover were a few slices of delicious Danish rye sourdough baked by the mother of the groom. She has promised me some starter and the recipe.

Danish Rye

This is a very dense and flavorful bread, meant to be sliced thinly and amazing with the egg salad or cucumber/cream cheese sandwiches.

Mother of the Groom, Bride, and Mother of the Bride

We are all very excited for the happy bride and groom, plus the uniting of two wonderful families.

In my kitchen I have two new cookbooks to feed my passion (maybe it should be termed obsession) for them.

The Spice Companion

The Spice Companion by Lior Lev Sercarz is a comprehensive and knowledgeable guide to spices from around the world and how to use them. To those of us who love trying new flavors, it is a prize. It also has recommendations for new spice mixes, I look forward to trying some of them and will post the best.

And I couldn’t visit the Oaktown Spice Shop without making a couple of purchases. Cyprus citron lemon flake sea salt is fantastic sprinkled over simple roasted asparagus.

Cyprus Citron Lemon Flake Salt

I first read about Marsh Turkish Chili in My Pantry by Alice Waters. It has a great depth of smoky flavor and only moderate heat. It is known as “Maras biberi” in Turkey. The chili flakes are traditionally mixed with olive oil, lemon juice and salt and used to season chicken, lamb, and goat dishes as well as vegetables.

Marash Turkish Chili

Dishing Up the Dirt

Dishing Up the Dirt by Andrea Bemis is the story of tumbleweed farm in Oregon. The recipes are simple but with a twist. I served the roasted beet and carrot lentil salad to my book club earlier in the month, only adapting the recipe a little by adding some curry powder to the lentils.

Roasted Beet & Carrot Lentil Salad with Feta and Yogurt Sauce

Finally from my kitchen I can see Casey and Quinn enjoying the sun and baking themselves on the deck.

Casey and Quinn on the deck, on the lookout for deer and squirrels

This is my June contribution to the “In My Kitchen” series. At the beginning of each month food bloggers worldwide give you a peek into their kitchens. Sherry of Sherry’s Pickings fame is our host, so click on the link and check out what’s happening elsewhere, or better still join in. You have until the 10th of the month to link up.

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?