Sunday, 27 May 2012

ROTW, Week 20: Corn Bread Salad

This recipe is straight from Smitten Kitchen.  Minus the ingredients I didn't have, of course. And without the dressing it calls for, because I don't do dressing - I used red wine vinegar and a little olive oil.  If you want the dressing recipe, click the link to get it.

I had made the corn bread fresh for breakfast with Mom, and then knew this was a perfect way to use the leftovers.

Corn Bread Salad, from Smitten Kitchen
Adapted from The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook

1 recipe Crispy Corn Bread (below) or 3 cups of 1-inch cornbread cubes
1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes (4 to 6 medium)
6 cups roughly torn sturdy fresh lettuce, such as Bibb, butter or Boston
2 cups bitter greens, such as arugula or dandelion greens
1 large Vidalia onion, trimmed, peeled, sliced crosswise as thinly as possible and separated into rings

Preheat oven to 250°. Scatter the corn bread in a single layer on a half-sheet pan and bake until the pieces are lightly toasted, about 7 minutes.

If you wish to peel the tomatoes: Cut an X in bottom of each tomato and blanch in a large pot of boiling water 10 seconds. Immediately transfer with a slotted spoon to an ice bath to cool. Peel tomatoes and chop them. (The Lee Bros. also suggest seeding the tomatoes, but I drew the line there.) Otherwise, just chop the tomatoes with the skin on.

Place lettuce, greens, 3 cups of toasted corn bread, onion and tomatoes to a large bowl and toss to combine. Drizzle with dressing, season with salt and pepper, and toss again. Serve immediately.

Do ahead: If you’re making this for a picnic or pot-luck — and oh, you should — I suggest keeping the croutons in one container, the dressing in another and the salad mixture in a third; this is best freshly assembled, or in the 30 minutes after.

Thin, Crispy Corn Bread
Adapted from The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook

1 tablespoon lard or unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups stone-ground cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups whole or lowfat buttermilk (whole is preferred, here’s how you can make your own)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Grease a 12-inch skillet with one tablespoon of the lard or butter, leaving any excess in the pan, and place it in the oven.

In a large bowl, whisk the dry ingredients together. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg until frothy and then whisk in the buttermilk. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones and mix thoroughly. Melt the remaining butter in a small skill (or your microwave) and whisk the butter into your batter.

While the fat in the large skillet is smoking, carefully remove the skillet from the oven and swirl the fat around to coat the bottom and sides evenly. Pour the batter into the skillet; it should “sizzle alluringly”, says the Lee Brothers. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the top of the bread is golden brown and the edge has pulled away from the side of the skillet. Remove from the oven and either serve hot, in six wedges, or let cool and reserve for Corn Bread Salad (above).

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

ROTW, Week 19: Asian Roasted Pork

Again, I am late posting.  If it makes you feel any better, I actually made this on Tuesday.  From now on, this installment will be published on Sunday afternoon, weekly.  If I give myself a hard deadline, maybe I'll actually do it?

This was pretty good, but pork tends to be kind of meh for me personally.  Brandon loves it though, so that's why I bother.

Roasted Asian Pork with Baby Bok Choy and Herbed Rice

For the pork:
1tbsp canola oil
1 ~2lb pork roast
2 tbsp Chinese 5 spice
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cracked black pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar

For the pan sauce
3 tbsp honey
1/3 cup chicken stock
additional salt and pepper to taste

For the bok choy:
2 bunches baby bok choy, cut into ~ 3" pieces
2 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced lengthwise
1 tbsp canola oil

For the rice
1 cup rice (jasmine preferred)
2 cups water
1/4 chopped mint

Begin by preheating the oven to 375F.  Rinse the pork loin and pat dry with paper towels.  Combine the spices and sugar, and rub the pork loin liberally with the mixture.

Heat the canola oil an oven-and-stove-safe dutch oven, and sear the pork briefly on all sides to seal it.  Rotate the loin to fat-side up (if you didn't trim it off) in the pan and move to the oven to cook for approximately 25 minutes (use a meat thermometer to make sure it is done to safe cooking temp).

While the pork is cooking, cook the rice.  To cook the rice, add 2 cups water to a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Add the dry rice grains and immediately turn down to low, keeping the lid on, to cook for 20 minutes.  Fluff with a fork and set aside, keeping the lid on to keep the rice warm and fresh.

When the pork is cooked through, pull the dutch oven out of the oven and remove the pork to rest on a cutting board (with foil tent to keep warm.)  Place the dutch oven, with all the pork juices, back onto the stove over high heat (being careful not to burn yourself) and add the chicken stock, honey, and additional salt and pepper if needed.  Reduce until thickened to your liking.

As the sauce is reducing, cook the bok choy.  I prefer to do this in a wok, but any largish pan will do.  Add 1tbsp oil to the wok and heat on high until almost smoking.  Toss in garlic chips, immediately followed by bok choy. (THIS WILL SPIT/HISS.  BE CAREFUL.)  Toss quickly until the bok choy is wilted and the garlic chips are beautifully golden brown.

Stir the mint leaves into the rice and spoon out onto the plate.  Add the wilted bok choy, arrange pork slices over top, and spoon sauce over the slices.

Bok Choy roses

Sunday, 13 May 2012

ROTW, Week 18: Roasted Spicy Cauliflower

I apologize for the relative "brown-ness" of this photo.  It tasted really awesome, I promise.
Simple and easy.  Great for a weeknight dinner when you have no time, and suddenly cauliflower is the only veggie left in your fridge.... tell me it isn't just me.

Roasted Spicy Cauliflower

A great accompaniment for simple proteins, like the grilled shrimp above.

1 head of cauliflower
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp red chili flakes
1 tsp curry powder
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
Juice of 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 425F.  Chop the cauliflower into bitesize pieces, then toss with the spices and olive oil to coat.  Spread cauliflower out onto a roasting pan, and bake in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes.

Remove from the oven and squeeze the lemon juice over the cauliflower.  Serve piping hot.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

On the blog: Workshopping Part 1

Over on Ribbons & Bluebirds, the first of my two part-er about Christy Tyler Photography's workshop.

See it here.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

On Ribbons & Bluebirds: Portrait Week

This week I have some actual things to blog about.  Never mind that they actually happened 3 weeks ago - this is me we're talking about after all.

This week is Portrait Week on the blog, and its about time the action took place where it really belongs - over on the blog for my business.  Check it out here (and if you haven't been over there, or seen it in a while, you'll notice it has undergone a bit of a facelift - a temporary revamp before actually spiffing up the blog for real.)

*yes I promise, it is a stationery business.  But sometimes its easier to post photos that I took during life than it is to post decent photos of my actual stationery work.  I'm working on it, mmkay?

Thursday, 3 May 2012

ROTW, Week 17: Blackberry Lemonade

Special treat today guys.  The title above is misleading: thanks to my delightful coworker Steve, you guys get 2 recipes this week.  They are not even remotely related.  But I was excited to try both of them.

Blackberry Lemonade,  adapted from Gourmet
about 6 lemons
4 cups water (we used 2 cups tap water to make the syrup, and 2 cups sparkling to add to the cooled mixture.)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup picked-over fresh blackberries

With a vegetable peeler remove zest from 4 lemons and squeeze enough juice from these and remaining 2 lemons to measure 1 cup.

In a saucepan boil 2 cups water with sugar, stirring, until sugar is dissolved. Add zest, lemon juice, and remaining 2 cups water and cool.

In a food processor or blender purée blackberries and stir into lemonade. Pour blackberry lemonade through a sieve into a pitcher or other container and chill. Chill lemonade, covered, at least until cold and up to 2 days.  Serve lemonade over ice in tall glasses, garnished with lemon slices (or blackberries.  Or mint, for that matter.).

special bonus recipe!

Ever thought to yourself, "You know, this steak needs something.  Something even more delish than steak." I hear you.  And now I have the answer for you:  Steak with blue cheese and toasted walnut butter.

You're welcome.  No photos - hubby and I fell on this steak like we were starving.

Steak with Blue Cheese and Toasted Walnut Butter - from Bon Appetit 

  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese (about 1 ounce)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped toasted walnuts

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 3/4-inch-thick rib-eye steaks

Mix butter and cheese in medium bowl or your food processor to blend; stir in walnuts. Season mixture with salt and pepper. Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle steaks with salt and pepper. Add steaks to skillet and sauté until brown and cooked to desired doneness, about 4 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer steaks to plates. Top each with generous tablespoonful of blue cheese-walnut butter and serve.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

The best boy

It has been 3 months since Boris passed away.  Sometimes it feels like yesterday, and sometimes it feels like so long ago - something about a living breathing ball of fluff who needs you RIGHT NOW will do that to you.

I haven't really talked a lot about what his life meant to me, and my family.  Part of that is because it isn't all my story to tell - we each had our favorite moments with our best-est boy, and he was so much more than just what he meant to me.

A month or so ago when she visited for Easter, my sister was upset when she realized that without thinking each of us had begun to call Ezio "our best boy."  And when she told me, and I thought about it, I realized that we both meant it and didn't mean it.  Boris is not replaceable, but he doesn't need to be worried - Ezio is his own dog, and is also the best boy.  He fills that void in our hearts with his fluffy face, and his goofy smile, and his joy for life.

Boris was with our family for eleven years, 10 of which were absolutely wonderful almost every day.  Even when he was being a brat, he had personality that could not be denied.  When visitors came to our house, despite the fact that Natasha begged and pleaded for their love and affection, it was almost always Boris who they named as "their favorite."  From the way he would lie down on anything you left on the floor (which prompted photos entitled "lord of the rug") to the way he always wanted to be with you (but not so near that you could possible come at him with a brush) to the telltale thump of his nose hitting the underside of the coffee table/kitchen table/door frame (hard), Boris made sure we knew he was there.

I miss him.

Boris had a condition called degenerative myelopathy, most common in German Shepherd dogs.  We have a sneaking suspicion it was brought on by the fact that he had Lyme's disease for too long before we could tell what it was.

Let me get up on my soapbox here for a moment:  If you have a dog, and you walk them in the woods, or near long grass, or anywhere in Northern Virginia since we are crawling with deer, then please consider asking your vet about giving your dog the Lyme Disease vaccine.  

* I am not qualified to give any kind of medical opinion, this is merely based on our vet and our personal experience*

Lyme's Disease is hard to identify if you don't know what you're looking for, and it can cause neurological problems.  Because we had seen Boris with symptoms, when Natasha got sick she was treated after only 2 weeks with the disease, while Boris probably suffered its effects for almost 4 months.  We have no idea if this contributed to his neurological disorder, but we do sometimes feel guilty about not knowing he was sick sooner.

From Wikipedia: Canine degenerative myelopathy (also known as chronic degenerative radiculomyelopathy) is a progressive disease of the spinal cord in older dogs. The disease has an insidious onset typically between 7 and 14 years of age. It begins with a loss of coordination (ataxia) in the hind limbs. As of July 15, 2008 the mutated gene responsible for DM has been found present in 43 breeds including German Shepherds, Boxers, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, and both breeds of Welsh Corgis.[1][2] The disease is chronic and progressive, and resulting in paralysis.
The myelin is an insulating sheath around neurons in the spinal cord. One proposed cause of degenerative myelopathy is that the immune system attacks this sheath, breaking it down. This results in a loss of communication between nerves in lower body of the animal and the brain.

What this means in plain English: for the last year of his life, Boris went from being perfectly healthy to being a little wobbly on his back legs, to being really wobbly on his back legs, to using his back legs as a tripod, to short bursts of walking interspersed with dragging, to only being able to walk if he dragged his back legs, to only being able to walk if we carried his back end for him.
Oh and also? He got cancer.  Because he was so sick, the vet advised us to allow him to live out the rest of his days without treating the cancer, as the two diseases raced him to the finish line.

While he was sick, my father did everything for him.  He took the dogs on extra long walks, as we knew keeping Boris' front legs strong was one of the only things we could do to slow the condition.  He bought him special booties to prevent the dragging from hurting Boris' little feet, and he hung them up to dry every day after Boris would run through the creek.  He arranged for Boris' wheelchair, and then coaxed and bribed to get the cranky old man into it so that he could enjoy his walks again.  He cleaned up when Boris could no longer properly support himself to go to the bathroom, he perfected the wheelbarrow walk Boris used to get from room to room, and he responded to every yip for attention.  He changed bandage after bandage when Boris has dinally had enough of his tumor and decided the time had come to remove it.  He protected all of us when he knew the time had come for Boris to say goodbye, and he shouldered that burden himself so that we could remember the good times.

I have gotten to a point where I am not sure what I want to say, and the tears are coming more quickly now.  I want to thank my dad for doing everything he could.  I want to tell my boy that I miss him, and that the place he occupies in our hearts will always be just for him.  I want to say that though he was a clumsy dog, and though he became ill in such a clumsy way, he carried himself with grace and dignity until his very last day.  And I will never forget that when I came to say goodbye, fighting tears so that my mother wouldn't know that we had made the most difficult decision, he wagged his tail at me for the first time in a long time, to tell me that he understood.

I love you honey.  You will always be here with us. And you are the best boy.