Saturday, October 29, 2011 The End Of An Era
I was forced to take down my garden today. Old Man Winter came early to the Connecticut coast and I had to harvest the basil, peppers, tomatoes, carrots and scallions before they were killed by the cold. This is especially bitter-sweet given the connection between the garden and my dearly departed bunny. But Nutmeg should be proud! I've got 14 ounces of basil in the freezer due to his efforts, plus a fair amount of peppers and green tomatoes. The peppers are due to be roasted and pureed before hitting the freezer and the tomatoes are going to become a green tomato marmalade. The carrots are already in the freezer for stock (along with all the basil stems) and the carrot tops are on display in a champagne glass. The scallions are in the fridge, their use is yet to be determined.
Not bad for my tiny little container garden on the porch!
Next year I'm thinking of a major scale-down. I'm gonna get rid of the buckets (all from my cake decorating days, over 4 years ago) and replace some of them with reusable shopping bags. No more vegetables - just a few herbs for the kitchen. Although I loved the privacy the tomato plants provided me, I had no place to sit except on top of the grill and that wasn't comfortable. I'd like to get a bench and a grill stand out there so we can sit and eat and watch my neighbors pee out the window and yell at each other just like we're sitting on the couch watching TV.
Here are a few more pics of the harvest!
The basil leaves I pureed with olive oil and froze in an ice cube tray, the stems get saved for stock.
Thursday, October 27, 2011 Fun With Banana Bread
I had a bunch of bananas left from Nutmeg's Memorial Dinner and I promised baked goods to the House of Dionysus so I spent most of yesterday in the kitchen whipping up some banana bread. I actually got so wrapped up in it I forgot to go to the Farmer's Market! I know! Crazy!
So first I made regular old banana bread (with too much salt by accident, oops!) and then I made Pumpkin Banana Basil Bread!!! The recipe follows. No matter which one you choose start by creaming the butter and sugar together then add the eggs one at a time, add the fruit and then add all the dry ingredients. Don't over mix! Once it's all incorporated put it into two oiled 4x8 loaf pans and bake at 350 for about 45 minutes - keep an eye on it :)
2 cups AP flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 cups mashed banana or 1 cup mashed banana 1 cup pureed pumpkin
The only other ingredients for the Pumpkin Banana Basil would be about 1/3 a cup of pine nuts (1/4 cup in the mix and sprinkle the rest on top) and the basil, which I blended into the sugar in my mini-chopper. I only used a few leaves, you can use more because the flavor wasn't pronounced.
Does that make sense? My brain is fried...
Tuesday, October 18, 2011 Alternative Control Archives - Pre-Coitus Cooking For Two
This article originally appeared in the February 2011 edition of Alternative Control.
Pre-Coitus Cooking For Two
When cooking a romantic dinner for two it is most important to find balance between the amount of tasty food you consume and your ability to move about the bedroom after consuming said food. Loaded baked potatoes are not likely to lead to the sex Olympics. And as half of a couple, we each have that duty in the spirit of St. Valentine to please our partner in the bedroom, in the kitchen and in the dining room. That’s a lot of pleasing. You’ll need a proper, well-balanced meal with all the tastiest aphrodisiac ingredients to fuel your evening, hopefully well into the next morning.
Start the meal off with some celery and peanut butter. Oh yes, you heard me. Celery has something in it that drives women wild when men secrete it, so munch up boys! And why not pair it with peanut butter? It’s got the vitamins and essential fatty acids that a woman’s body needs. And if some peanut butter happens to fall in her cleavage? Napkins need not apply.
For the main course I’d get some filet mignon and cover it in a mixture of spices. Salt and pepper the meat and then coat it in cocoa seasoned with paprika, cinnamon, chili, ginger, nutmeg, cardamom, cayenne and cloves. Get all them anti-oxidants in there doing their thing so you’ll be able to do your thing! Let it sit for a little while before you cook it, let those flavors settle in. While that’s going on whip up a bit of salsa - tomato, onion, garlic, cucumber, green pepper, cilantro. Heck, buy it if you want, but please buy fresh. Most supermarkets have fresh salsa in the produce section. If it’s not in your local market - move.
While you’re at the market pick up a testicle fruit, also known as avocado. You may need to do this a few days before to give it time to ripen (I won’t say soften.) With a sharp knife cut around the entire fruit stem to tip, vertically, top to bottom, you get the idea. Then, with one hand around each half, give it a good twist. One half will come off clean and one will still have the pit attached. Take the clean half, and with a sharp knife, make several lengthwise cuts, the more cuts you make the thinner the slices will be. Then use a spoon to scoop out the slices, scraping along the inside of the skin.
Getting back to your meat, take a non-stick pan and get it hot. If you don’t have a non-stick pan borrow one from your neighbor and don’t give it back like I did. Put a little oil in the pan and make sure it’s hot enough to sear the meat. “Tttttssssssss” is what you want to hear when the meat hits the pan. Don’t cook it too long, just a few minutes on each side – it depends on the size of the meat.
There. I said it.
If you should happen to buy super thick cuts like I did you may have to finish cooking them in the oven. Put them on a cookie sheet and bake at 375°. The internal temp of the cooked meat should be 125° for rare, 145° for medium and if you want it well done I insist you stop reading this article right now.
Plating is the fun part. Place two slices of avocado off to one side of the plate and use salsa to fill in the heart. Then place your perfectly cooked meat in the empty space. Serve with a wink and a smile.
As for dessert…you really don’t need me to tell you what to do. But please, for the love of St. Valentine, don’t use whipped cream from a can. Nor cool whip. Eww.
Thursday, October 13, 2011 Alternative Control Archives - Pimp Your Pumpkin
This was last year's pumpkin piece...
Pimp Your Pumpkin
The Headbanging Hostess
Ah, yes. Rocktober. I mean, Cocktober. I mean, October! Sorry, too busy thinking about what I’m going to do with my pumpkin to come up with the proper name of this glorious month.
Fall is in the air, homes are intentionally decorated with cobwebs and spiders, supermarket aisles are brimming with bags of individually wrapped portions of chocolate-sugared happiness, and farmers are peddling their pumpkins.
If you’ve never been to Jones Family Farms in Shelton, CT now is the time to go. Up on Pumpkinseed Hill Farm you (obviously) find pumpkins, squash and gourds in every size, shape and color combination imaginable. Turban shaped squash, Cinderella’s Coach in a squash, Blue Pumpkins which are also a squash - why isn’t it Squashseed Hill Farm?
They also have a Corn Maze and a Hay Ride – I skip those due to my allergy to children. But they have a bunch of those boardwalk things where you stick your head in to take a picture. They provide me with hours of fun, for years to come. My husband doesn’t like it so much.
Once you have your pumpkin the fun part is figuring out what-the-fuck you’re going to do with it. Sure, you can carve out some triangular facial features – but why give the neighborhood kids something to imagine smashing? How’s about forgoing the face and using it as a punchbowl? Cut a lid, pull out the seeds and shit, schmear it lightly inside with butter (just so it doesn’t burn), and warm in a 350º oven for 10-15 minutes – it depends on the oven and the pumpkin. The bigger the pumpkin the more drinks you get! Fill it up with Hot Apple Cider you’ve warmed up on the stove with sticks of cinnamon and a couple cloves and finish it off with a generous amount of Spiced Rum.
Have a Headbanging Halloween!
Wednesday, October 12, 2011 Another Edition of Only On Cove Road
So there's this new sidewalk construction thing going on in my neighborhood. Seems the corners are all being brought up to code - what code I don't know. If you look closely you'll notice the crosswalk and the ramp aren't quite meeting up like common sense would dictate. But, let us not forget, this is Stamford. We like to point handicapped parking spaces towards glass front cafes.
Saturday, October 8, 2011 Chili in a Pumpkin
No doubt about it, I love pumpkin season! Last year I discovered the joy of pumpkins as serving dishes. They keep the food hot, contain it in a beautiful way, they can also be eaten and tossed into the stock pot when you're done!
The other day at the Darien Farmers Market I picked up two perfect little pumpkins. It was my plan to fill them with Chicken Pot Pie but that plan quickly changed and I ended up filling one with some killer chili last night. Mmm, mmm, mmm. DDelicious!! \m/
The chili began with some chunks of beef browning in a large pan. I added some chopped onion along with some chopped black pepper from the garden and let that brown for a bit. Then I added some chopped garlic, a can of tomato sauce and one of my hot peter peppers that's STILL in the freezer from last year's garden. When cooking with these uber-hot peppers I only make a few slices in the flesh, so the food can come into contact with the seeds (where the heat is) but I can later fish the whole thing out to not totally overpower the dish with heat. I also added some chili powder at this point, but you don't really have to add all the seasonings up front. Their flavors will dissipate and change while the dish cooks and cooks, so you can take time to let the meat fall apart before you finish seasoning the chili.
It took hours for the meat to finally give way to a slight pulling of a fork. And the hot pepper, even though I'd taken it out within the first hour of cooking, permeated the dish to such an extent that I had to put both Hershey and Maple Syrup into the chili to soften the sting. I also added cayenne, cumin, cinnamon and oregano along with some frozen sweet corn and a handful of barley to thicken it up.
The pumpkin took a little time to prepare. I sliced the top straight off. No reason to open it like a Jack-o-Lantern, the lid wasn't going back (it actually went into the freezer for stock) and I scraped out the seeds, washed them, sprayed them with salt and oil and roasted them in the 350 degree oven. The pumpkin was also sprayed with oil on the inside and seasoned with salt and pepper before being baked in the same 350 degree oven for almost 30 minutes. It took a while for it to become fork tender, but it did, and I promptly filled it up with the waiting chili and topped it with cheese. I threw it back in for about five minutes to melt the cheese and Ta-friggin'-Da!
Outstanding dinner. There something yummy about chili made with chunks of meat instead of ground beef, we actually went back and filled the pumpkin again for seconds. And being able to scoop out chunks of pumpkin along with the chili made for an interesting flavor fight in my mouth - spicy and sweet, chunky and toothy, chili and pumpkin. Outstanding.
Seriously. Serve dinner in a pumpkin. Stew, chili, mac-n-cheese, mashed potatoes, hot apple cider. Use your imagination and the possibilities are endless!
You can thank me later.
Sunday, October 2, 2011 Only on Cove Road
Today as I was headed out on my power walking/jogging to Volbeat exercise I witnessed a man exiting the convenience store. He was probably in his late 20's early 30's, casually dressed in a hip-hop basketball kinda way. He was walking around the front of his truck to get the the drivers side. It was a nice truck, big American pick-up truck. Orange in color, nice and clean, well maintained. And as he walks around the front of his truck, with his purchase in one hand, he puts his free hand to his face, closes off a nostril and blows his nose right out onto the pavement.
Only on Cove Road.
I mean, he was just in a convenience store. Couldn't he have bought tissues?
Now, in an effort to tie this blogpost up in a little bow, I must report to you that all my exercise has paid off. I might not have lost a ton of weight, but I did whip myself into shape - especially my legs. The review of Boy Wonder? calls me sexy and even refers to my "well-filled shirt." Ha! Makes me laugh...they also got my name wrong which makes me laugh even more.