Monday, July 27, 2009

Picky Eaters Need Not Apply

I like to think that I am pretty open minded about food choices. I like stuff; you like stuff; we don't have to like the same things. It is all OK. But, then the reality of cooking for someone day in and day out hits...

There are things that my husband claims to not like. Some, he refuses to eat at all. Some, he doesn't know that he eats on a regular basis. No, I am not that evil, I just don't always feel like catering to every one of his whims. (Tomatoes won't kill him, and in fact, have been proven to be very healthful in a man's diet.) It isn't that I don't want to create meals centered on his preferences. I want those who sample my cooking to enjoy it. But, I have my own likes and dislikes, and sometimes, I just want what I want.

So is the case with pesto. I love it. I hover over my basil plantings and eagerly await the time that they are full enough for a harvest. Fresh pesto is so fragrant, flavorful, and just plain good. Picky pants Hubby isn't sold. However, his point of reference is some nasty bottled stuff that I had once purchased many years ago while still learning and exploring food options. It was nasty. I don't blame him for not liking it, but basing all pesto on that first foul taste couldn't be more wrong.

Still, Hubby stood steadfast with his claim of not liking pesto until one Sunday afternoon of snacking. It was that twilight zone of time when it was too late for lunch and too early for dinner, but I was starving. A partial loaf of crusty, artisan-style Asiago Garlic Bread was resting in the kitchen and my basil plants were flourishing. A quick whirl in the food processor produced some Fresh Pesto while I sliced a ripe tomato (not yet from my garden...they are all still green) and grated a bit of Parmesan. Smeared it all together, threw it under the broiler to toast the slices of dense bread, and mmmmmmm.

Even Hubby couldn't resist this decadent treat. In an attempt to assert his anti-pesto stance, he called it "Fancy Garlic Bread," but we all know it was the smear of Pesto that made it great On My Plate.

Pesto Smeared Garlic Bread

sliced French bread (or similar artisan-style bread)
sliced ripe tomato

Pesto (see below)
grated Parmesan cheese

Slice bread thinly or thickly to your own liking.
Toast in oven until crispy, but not crunchy (unless you like crunchy).
Spread one side of each slice with Pesto. Top with slices of ripe tomatoes.
Grate a bit of Parmesan over the tomatoes.
Place on a foil covered baking sheet and slide under the broiler just until cheese melts and bread is toasted.
(Will be hot upon removal from the oven...take care not to burn the roof of your mouth with broiled tomato.)

Fresh Basil Pesto

2 cups fresh basil
1 cup Italian parsley
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
4 cloves garlic, chopped

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon lemon juice (fresh is best)

1/2 cup olive oil

Combine all ingredients in food processor.
Blend until mixture forms a smooth paste.

Can store leftovers in fridge for 2-3 days.

Sunday, July 26, 2009


Early this summer, I took a detour on the way home from Sioux Falls and zipped up to Arlington to visit the greenhouse of an old high school friend. I loaded up with heirloom tomato plants, a gorgeous Fuchsia plant, and a multitude of other assorted bedding plants as we filled each other in on the current happenings in our lives and laughed about old times. It was a great visit, but all too soon, I had to hit the road home. That is when things got j-j-j-juicy. As I crossed the lake-filled countryside, my windshield was soon splattered with some of the juiciest bugs I have ever encountered. I couldn't help but think of the refrain of a Better Than Ezra song, "J-j-j-juicy...Aw, ooh, aw, ooh, yeah yeah yeah. Juicy."

A few weeks ago, I had to make a trip to the southeastern corner of the state. Hubby joined me, and on the way home, we felt that we were doing our due diligence to reduce the mosquito population. Thousands of the juicy buggers found their death with splats on my windshield. Summer is here, and it is j-j-j-juicy.

The best juiciness of summer is certainly not the bugs, though. It is the fruits. Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, nectarines, apricots, cherries, and of course, peaches are all ripe and juicy. Unlike splattered bug guts, lush fruits make me want to sing j-j-j-juicy praises.

I have nothing but praise for some cute little fruity desserts that allowed me to finally really use the assortment of ramekins that I have been collecting from World Market. Hubby is neither a peach, nor a blueberry fan, but he loved the combination in some Individual Fruit Cobblers that I first whipped up last summer. This dessert is so simple and the juiciness of the fruits is really showcased in every bite. I served it with scoops of vanilla ice cream on the still warm cobblers. Yum. Yum. Yum. This is a j-j-j-juicy that I want to splat right On My Plate.

Individual Fruit Cobblers

1/4 cup flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup fresh peaches, sliced and peeled
1/4 cup fresh blueberries

Combine first four ingredients in small bowl.
Combine milk and melted butter; stir into dry ingredients until smooth.
Pour into two greased 8-oz. ramekins.

Top with fruit.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until fruit is tender.

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream. (Serves 2)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Truly. Tell me. How in the heck does one raise cilantro? I can't seem to get it right, but then my gardening skills are pretty limited by this lazy streak that I just can't seem to shake. If it involves more than plant it; water it; nourish it now and then with some Miracle Grow; weed a little, but not a lot because I mulch; and maybe...just maybe, if I am in the right mood...trim it now and then, it just doesn't happen. My garden needs to be hearty. My attention span is just too short for fussy plantings.

I am wondering if cilantro is one of those fussy plantings. I have tried starting from seed; I have tried purchasing starter plants; this year, I even allowed a large crop of volunteer plants (from seeds dropped last year) to take over a corner of the garden. Still, I only have foliage that is recognizable as sprigs of cilantro for a very short time. In the blink of an eye, the plants shoot up, the leaves become thinner, flowers appear, seeds develop, and I have no real cilantro to harvest.

I am befuddled. Does cilantro normally grow that quickly? Does it have to be constantly replanted in order to harvest perfect little shoots of leaves? Am I doomed to planning my fresh salsas, herb salads, and even the basting marinade for some great pork chops around the never-there-when-you-want-it availability of cilantro in the grocery store? I am clueless.

If you aren't as clueless as me, and know the secret to growing cilantro (or if you have access to a grocery that always stocks this herb), there should be no major planning involved in making some moist and perfectly seasoned pork chops with a cilantro-lime marinade for basting. All prep for the chops can be done while waiting for the grill to heat. The cut of the chop is up to you. I have used bone-in or boneless depending on what I had on hand, and this time, I divided some butterflied chops (that I had originally planned to stuff & bake on one of our rainy days). It is a simple recipe that pairs really well with baked sweet potatoes and a salad for a no stress meal any night of the week.

I maybe be clueless about growing cilantro, but I have no doubts about using it for Cilantro and Lime Pork Chops to land On My Plate.

Cilantro and Lime Pork Chops

4 boneless pork loin chops, 1-inch thick
1 1/4 teaspoons garlic pepper seasoning
3/4 teaspoon onion salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped

1 1/2 teaspoons lime zest

2 teaspoons fresh lime juice

Heat grill (I prefer charcoal.) to medium direct heat.
Sprinkle chops with garlic pepper seasoning and onion salt; rub to coat.Set aside.
Whisk remaining ingredients in a small bowl.
Place chops on grill.
Baste with oil and cilantro mixture.
Turn chops over and grill 3-5 minutes per side or until internal temperature is 160F.
Baste again and turn once. (Serves 4)

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Sunny Delight

First, I used the excuse that the gloom that permeated most of June with cloud cover and drizzle prevented me from snapping acceptable photos for this blog. Then, when the sun did come out, I was so wrapped up in my attempts at yard and garden care and lounging under that glorious golden orb that I still neglected to post anything. The sun has felt too good to tie myself indoors with the computer. (Nevermind that I have wireless and can easily take the laptop outside...which is where I am right now.) I have been a slacker about sharing my recipe discoveries and wildly interesting *insert sarcasm* life.

Truth be told, daily cooking at home has dwindled. It is that time of year when if Hubby can work, he does. His hours are long and dinner doesn't usually happen before 9pm, if not closer to 10pm. He makes hay while the sun shines, and in the age of technology and headlights on field equipment, often longer. Our menus have been lighter and sometimes nothing more than odd assortments of snacky stuff pulled from the fridge in a hunger induced haze (when I ignore the signs of my plummeting blood sugar levels and wait for his return home to eat anything at all). At that point, food is just another necessity and has lost all fun and appeal. Anything will do; and anything usual does. (I think that there was a day that my "nourishment" totally consisted of Peanut Butter Filled Pretzels from World Market and Diet Cherry 7-Up...unfortunately.)

Occasionally, I have planned a bit better and our dinners were made up of quick, cool, and simple salads and something tossed on the grill. A fresh, sunny coleslaw from Martha Stewart Living caught my eye and paired really well with some extremely lean buffalo hotdogs (samples provided by a friend at the Tanka Bar company). It was a perfect summer supper...except that the Citrus Slaw and Tanka Dog landed On My Plate about the same time as the 10pm news. It is just that time of year.

Citrus Slaw

2 navel oranges
3 tablespoons champagne vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small head Savoy cabbage, cored and shredded (2 cups)
1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 cup fresh basil, leaves torn
3 scallions, thinly sliced
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

Cut peel and pith from oranges. Slice oranges along membranes to remove segments, letting segments and juices fall into bowl. Squeeze juice from membranes over segments and discard membranes. Remove orange segments from bowl and set aside. Combine champagne vinegar with orange juice. Slowly whisk the oil into the juice and vinegar until emulsified. Combine cabbage, parsley, basil, scallions, and orange segments in serving bowl. Add dressing and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. (Serves 4)
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