Mussels in White Wine and Garlic

Ready

“It’s a beautiful day,” says he.

“I know!” I respond, “FINALLY!”

“We really should get out and about.”

“Oh, yes, please! That would be great.”

It’s one of the first truly nice days of spring. The sun is shining, there’s a light breeze, it’s warm(ish). I want to get out and feel the sun on my face. A nice walk in Acadia National Park. Oh, Sand Beach, I haven’t been there yet. My head was filled with places on Mount Desert Island I wanted to explore.

The Dear One, however, had other ideas in mind.

See, there’s a tree. A tree he cut down. A tree destined to be cut and split and stacked and dried for the wood stove for the winter.

THE WINTER? Seriously, Dude? It’s April! I’ve barely had time to recuperate from this past winter much less think about NEXT winter.

Well, you see, he explains, it has to be cut and split and stacked now, and covered in plastic so that it dries out to be ready for next winter.

Now, back to that tree … it’s down a ‘slight’ hill, on the opposite side of the house from where it needs to be stacked, and looked MUCH smaller standing upright.

“Okay, I’ll take the big part of the trunk. You take the branches. Whatever is too small to cut for the wood stove, throw on the wood pile.”

This is when I realized that the man of my dreams is completely OFF.HIS.ROCKER! Has he not seen these delicate, little hands? Has he not seen me struggle to pick up heavy grocery bags? Most importantly, has he NOT SEEN MY TIARA!? A princess, I tell you! A City princess, at that, carrying a tree? Stacking wood? Surely you jest.

Jesting he was not. But I princessed up, rolled up my sleeves and heave ho’d. I threw branches and stems on the burn pile (wait, ce qui es une BURN PILE … oh, I am so new to this planet!), carried big branches up to some God awful contraption so it could be cut into logs, and stacked up wood that Mr. Lumberjack split.

I smelled. I dropped a birch branch on my toe. I dropped a birch log on my ankle. I was covered in sawdust and dirt and YUCK. Every single inch of my body hurt … except, perhaps, a 1/4″ spot on my left ear.

AND I WAS STARVING. I needed a HOT shower and a hot, quickly made dinner.

I sent Simon Legree the Dear One off to the market to pick up dinner … mussels, garlic, parsley … while I stood in a scalding hot shower trying to wash away the memory of the day.

In the time it took to boil a pot of water, shallots were sliced, garlic was minced, parsley was chopped. When the pasta was dropped into boiling water, the shallots, garlic and white wine simmer, after about 5 minutes the mussels were added, another short 5 minutes, added some parsley and butter. Everything done at the same time. 15 minutes from start to finish.

A few slices of toasted Italian bread, glasses of fabulous red wine, and I was a happy, though still sore, camper.

It doesn’t really get easier than this dish. Next time I may add some arugula in, or perhaps halved grape tomatoes, the possibilities are endless.

  • 2 C dry white wine
  • 4 large shallots, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 4 pounds live mussels
  • 1/3 C mixed fresh herbs, such as flat-leaf parsley, chervil, or basil, chopped
  • 6 T butter, cut into pieces

Rinse and scrub mussels under cold running water. Using your fingers or a paring knife, remove beards (strings that hang from the mussels’ shells), and discard.

In a large stockpot set over medium heat, combine wine, shallots, garlic, and salt. Simmer 5 minutes. Add mussels. Cover, and increase heat to high. Cook until all mussels are open, about 5 minutes. Stir in herbs and butter. Remove from heat. Divide mussels and broth among four bowls. Serve immediately.

NOTE: We were STARVING so I threw this over pasta. If you serve the mussels without pasta toast some bread, rub it with garlic for dipping.

Salty Dawg

Drink

It’s spring!

Yeah, right!

Spring is what they say … it’s what the calendar says … it’s what all the cute clothes and shoes are saying in the stores … but raining and snowing and sleeting and yucking is what it has been doing in Maine.

The weather in the last two weeks must be Mother Nature’s way of making sure we all know who is really in charge around these parts.

So while (again) waiting for the Dear One to finally make it home after delayed, missed and cancelled flights, a new cocktail seemed in order.

This recipe was tested, many times, by Lisa and I so that it would be perfected by the time the Dear One finally arrived.

While squeezing the last of our fabulous ruby red grapefruit from K-Y Farms in Texas, I made some ruby red grapefruit ice cubes to plunk in this drink. Thank you Paul and Susan for the fabulous grapefruit! Just as an aside, if you haven’t had ruby red grapefruit from Texas, you don’t know what you’re missing! I thought they were all alike … until I tried these!

It’s a great drink to make by the pitcherful, just sprinkle the Maldon salt on each drink as you pour. The salt doesn’t really make the drink salty, it just brightens the flavors of the citrus while giving it just a wee bit of brininess.

So, while it’s not spring-like outside, this drink makes you think and feel as though spring has truly arrived!

  • 1 1/2 ounces of gin
  • 3 ounces fresh ruby red grapefruit juice
  • 1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
  • Pinch Maldon salt

NOTE: I used Tanqueray gin. Use any sort of grapefruit you prefer. I think the red or pink is better than the white … and it’s pretty!

Add gin and grapefruit juice to a cocktail shaker and fill with ice. Shake until well chilled, about 20 seconds. Strain into ice-filled glass, add salt on top and serve.

salting

NOTE: To make a pitcher, just multiply the ingredients by the number of cocktails you’d like. I mixed it all in the pitcher and stuck it in the fridge so it was good and cold and poured it over the grapefruit ice cubes when serving.

Pistachio Dried Cherry Torrone ~ March Daring Bakers

Done 3

The March 2014 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Rebecca of BakeNQuilt. She challenged us to learn to make classic nougat and to make it our own with our choice of flavors and add-ins.

It’s been a terribly long time since I’ve been able to join in any cooking or baking events. I’ve missed it.  I am so pleased to be able to join in BOTH Daring Kitchen challenges this month.

I have had this Martha Stewart Torrone recipe on deck for a LONG time and made my own changes to it, but felt the base recipe was easy enough for me to handle!

Done 2

And you-know-who is screaming WHY? And in the same breath WHERE’S MINE??

This was a bit fiddley. I was a bit hampered by not being in my own kitchen. I used a hand mixer that’s affixed to a bowl that turns, so it was a semi-stand mixer type piece of equipment … but not really.

It needs to sit and ‘dry’ a bit more, but man oh man, this is tasty stuff!

  • 2 pieces edible rice paper, (9 by 13 inches each) wafer paper
  • 1 C sugar
  • 1/2 C honey
  • 3 T light corn syrup
  • 1/2 C water
  • 2 large egg whites, room temperature
  • 1 t pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 C shelled salted pistachios, (about 7 ounces)
  • 1 1/3 C unsweetened finely shredded coconut, (about 4 ounces)
  • 3/4 C dried cherries

Place 1 piece of rice paper in a 9×13-inch rimmed baking sheet; set aside.

NOTE: I lightly buttered the sides of the baking dish. You’re going to trim them off anyway so it just makes removing the Torrone easier.

Put sugar, honey, corn syrup, and 1/2 cup water in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture just begins to simmer and sugar has dissolved, about 6 minutes. Continue to cook, without stirring, until mixture reaches 300 degrees on a candy thermometer.

NOTE: Aside from the no stand mixer problem, I also suffered from a no CANDY THERMOMETER problem. 300 degrees is hard ball stage. Drop a tiny amount of the boiling sugar into a cup with cold water, when it becomes a hard, crunchy mass once in the water, you’re done.

Meanwhile, put egg whites into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium-high speed until stiff (but not dry) peaks form. Raise speed to high. Pour hot honey mixture into egg-white mixture in a slow, steady stream, and beat until mixture has cooled and thickened and begins to stick to whisk, about 10 minutes.

Ingredients

Reduce speed to medium-low; beat in vanilla, pistachios, coconut, and cranberries.

Working quickly, spread mixture into prepared dish. Place another sheet of rice paper on top; press down to flatten and spread evenly. Let cool on wire rack at least 3 hours, or overnight.

Ready to cut

Cut around edges of Torrone to loosen. Remove from baking sheet; transfer to a cutting board. Trim edges to be straight. Using a long, sharp knife, cut crosswise into 3/4-inch slices.

Baked Buffalo Chicken Taquitos

Baked

All the back and forth in my life, coupled with the Dear One’s travels, make my ability to blog … well, hampered, to say the least.

This recipe was one I made with my brother, Nick, for a Super Bowl party he was attending. You may remember the other recipe we made together, Buffalo Chicken Bites. Snarky comments aside, the chicken bites were fab.

These were good, but I think if they were to be made again, I would change these slightly.

First, canned chicken? It was okay, but if you’re going to cheat, you may as well buy a rotisserie chicken. A poached chicken breast would be best.

Smaller tortillas, more blue cheese, more hot sauce, maybe some chopped celery.

But, changes aside, these were easy, taste great, and are good for a Super Bowl party when grab and go food is called for!

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/8 C buffalo sauce
  • 1 C shredded Monterey jack cheese
  • 1/8 C blue cheese crumbles
  • 1 can (12.5-ounce) Swanson® Premium Chunk Chicken Breast in Water, drained
  • 8 8-inch flour tortillas
  • coarse Kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Filling

In a bowl, combine the cream cheese and buffalo sauce. Mix well. Stir in the Monterey jack cheese, blue cheese crumbles and chicken; mix well.

Stuffed

Place 2-3 tablespoons of the mixture down the center of each tortilla and roll up. If needed, microwave the tortillas for about 30 seconds to make them soft and pliable enough to roll. Place on a baking sheet. Spray the taquitos with cooking spray, then sprinkle with coarse salt.

Rolling

Bake in the preheated oven for 17-20 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve with blue cheese dressing for dipping, if desired.

Ready to Bake

NOTE: These definitely needed more of a kick. Maybe a little more buffalo sauce. Perhaps a few dashes of hot sauce. Maybe a bit more blue cheese. And while I like the 8″ tortilla, I really think the smaller ones would be better.  They would be crisper. And as my pal Sandra would say … I like crunchy!

Homemade PopTarts

Ready

One of my guiltiest pleasures from childhood is POP-TARTS. Cherry Pop-Tarts to be exact, even better when they added the frosting to them! Don’t even need them toasted. Just right out of the package, simply inhaled.

I so related to Paula Poundstone and her thoughts on Pop-Tarts:

Inside there are three pouches of two. This is what happens to me: I open the first pouch, and I eat one tart, and I enjoy it very much, as naturally I would. And then I feel, Well, I have to eat the second one or it will go stale. Well, now I’ve eaten two, and it’s no longer just a snack, it’s a meal. I figure I may as well eat two more. And then finally I’m just like, Well hell, I don’t just want two pop tarts hangin’ out in a box. I eat the last two just to tidy up, really.

That’s exactly right! It makes absolute, perfect sense. And that’s pretty much what happened with the 9 that were baked in our house! Sadly, mostly by me … and Lisa … but not the skinny girl, who has ridiculous self control and loves to come into the kitchen to play with me!

I didn’t frost these. I have no excuses. It may have been sheer exhaustion. But they were really very good. And with a really good helper, very easy to make!

  • 2 C Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 T sugar
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 C unsalted butter, cut into pats
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 T milk
  • 3/4 C raspberry jam – or flavor of your choice
  • 1 T cornstarch mixed with 1 T cold water

Whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Work in the butter until the mixture holds together when you squeeze it, with pecan-sized lumps of butter still visible. Mix the egg and milk, and add it to the dough, mixing just until everything is cohesive.

Divide the dough in half. Shape each half into a rough 3″ x 5″ rectangle, smoothing the edges. Roll out immediately; or wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

While the dough is resting, make the filling. Mix the jam with the cornstarch/water in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, and simmer, stirring, for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, and set aside to cool. Use to fill the pastry tarts.

Once the dough has been chilled, remove it from the refrigerator and allow it to soften and become workable, about 15 to 30 minutes.

Place one piece on a lightly floured work surface, and roll it into a rectangle about 1/8″ thick, large enough that you can trim it to an even 9″ x 12″. Laying a 9″ x 13″ pan atop the dough will give you an idea if you’ve rolled it large enough. Trim off the edges; place the scraps on a baking sheet, and set them aside, along with the 9″ x 12″ rectangle of dough.

Roll the second piece of dough just as you did the first. Press the edge of a ruler into the dough you’ve just rolled, to gently score it in thirds lengthwise and widthwise; you’ll see nine 3″ x 4″ rectangles.

Beat the egg, and brush it over the entire surface of the dough.

Filling

Place a heaping tablespoon of filling into the center of each marked rectangle. Place the second sheet of dough atop the first, using your fingertips to press firmly around each pocket of jam, sealing the dough well on all sides.

Crimping

Press the tines of a fork all around the edge of the rectangle. Cut the dough evenly in between the filling mounds to make nine tarts. Press the cut edges with your fingers to seal, then press with a fork, to seal again.

Gently place the tarts on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Prick the top of each tart multiple times with a fork; you want to make sure steam can escape, or the tarts will become billowy pillows rather than flat toaster pastries. Refrigerate the tarts (they don’t need to be covered) for 30 minutes, while you preheat your oven to 350°F.

Sprinkle the dough trimmings with cinnamon-sugar; these have nothing to do with your toaster pastries, but it’s a shame to discard them, and they make a wonderful snack. While the tarts are chilling, bake these trimmings for 13 to 15 minutes, till they’re golden brown.

Cooling

Remove the tarts from the fridge, and bake them for 25 to 35 minutes, until they’re a light golden brown. Remove them from the oven, and allow them to cool on the pan.

NOTE: Instead of jam you can fill the tarts with a tablespoonful of chocolate chips. Use seedless jam!

Watercress Composed Salad with Citrus Dressing ~ March Daring Cooks

Salad

I haven’t been living in one place for a long enough period of to really concentrate on joining any cook-alongs. It’s been over 6 months with this back and forth stuff! I’m so excited t his month to not join one of The Daring Kitchen’s challenges, but TWO!

For March’s Daring Cooks’ Challenge, Ruth, Shelley and Sawsan asked us to totally veg out! We made salads and dressings, letting the sky be the limit as we created new flavors and combinations that reflect our own unique tastes.

I’ve always made my own dressing. Probably because my mother always made her own dressing and my grandmother always made her own dressing. I will occasionally buy a dressing in a bottle, if I want a quick marinade for something, but otherwise I just find them … hmmm, ICKY! Thick and gloppy and off-tasting.

This challenge was right up my alley!

Many, many moons ago, Erie and I went to a Spanish restaurant in Queens (the name escapes me at the moment and perhaps she will chime in and let us know). We had the most wonderful composed salad – and I was surprised as I’m not usually a fan of composed salads.

Since then, this is my go to company is coming, steak themed dinner, salad. It’s simple with lots of great ingredients.

  • 1 bunch watercress
  • 2 hard boiled eggs
  • 2 plum tomatoes
  • 1 can hearts of palm
  • 1 shallot
  • juice from 1/2 an orange, lime and lemon
  • 3 t extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 t oregano
  • s&p

NOTE: I used plum tomatoes, use whatever tomatoes make you happy.

Watercress

Wash watercress thoroughly and cut off stems. Place watercress on a platter

Quarter hard boiled eggs into wedges.  Scatter over watercress.

If using Roma tomatoes, cut into wedges. If using other tomatoes, cut into chunks. Scatter over watercress.

Slice hearts of palm into 1/4″ rings. Again, scatter over watercress.

Thinly slice shallot into rings. Scatter over salad.

Dressing salad

In a bowl, whisk together citrus juices, oregano and s&p to taste. While whisking, stream in olive oil. When ready to serve salad, drizzle dressing over the top.

Hard Crunchy Pretzels

Done 2
So what’s your favorite snack, I ask? I know my answer already ~ hands down, potato chips. I cannot even trust myself to buy them. On the rare occasion that I do I am either (a) really upset at someone or something or (b) just really, really wanting them! And then I buy the smallest bag I can find and stuff them all in my face at once ~ naturally washing it down with a Diet Coke to negate the calories!
Not so for the Dear One. Pretzels. Those Hard Sourdough Pretzels are his absolute favorite snacking thing – well, next to Cheez-Its (and I made those again for him recently).
So here I am in Maine, and bored, and waiting for him to come home and watching flight after flight be cancelled. I know! I’ll make hard pretzels to take to the airport – if he can EVER get on a plane and if it EVER stops snowing!
Once I, I could hear Ernie shouting – BUY THEM! BUY THEM, YOU TWIT!
I was a little wary about trying this recipe. Things raising, cutting them into strips, rolling it into long tubes, FORMING pretzel shapes, dropping them into a baking soda bath … YIKES … but once started, the fear washed away … a few sips of wine didn’t hurt … this was pretty easy to do.
And they tasted great. Definitely to be done again – with a little tweaking.
  • 4 C all-purpose flour
  • 2 t salt
  • 1 t sugar
  • 1 C lukewarm water
  • 2 pkgs active dry yeast
  • 3 T butter
  • Coarse salt for sprinkling

Soda Bath

  • 1/2 C baking soda
  • 2 quarts water

Dissolve yeast in the lukewarm water.

Fkour

Mix flour and salt together in a large mixing bowl. Form a well in the flour mixture then add the sugar to the center of the well. Pour the yeast/water mixture into the well. Let it rest for 15 minutes before mixing.

Add the softened butter to the mixing bowl and knead everything to a smooth dough.

Dough

NOTE: Use the dough hook for about 6 minutes on speed #2. If it’s too dry add about a tablespoon of additional water so you can gather all the dry ingredients. Remove the dough hook and let the dough rest for 30 minutes.

Rolling

Cut the dough into twelve equal parts, then roll each piece on the table (don’t flour the surface, you shouldn’t need it) to about 20 inches, tapered toward the ends.

Knotting

 

Shape pretzels.

NOTE: Don’t make it smaller than 20 inches as it’s impossible to get a good shape with a short, thick rope of dough. The dough should not get too warm as you roll it out, or it might tear. The warmer it gets, the harder it is to roll. Also, my ropes were too thick. Made it harder for me to get that crunchy texture I was seeking.

Place the pretzels without covering them in the fridge for about an hour. This helps build a skin that will absorb the dipping solution better and make a beautiful shiny crust.

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

NOTE: Pretzel recipes usually call for a lye solution, but baking soda is a perfectly acceptable and widely used substitute. LYE? Nope, not going there!

Ready to boil

Fill large stock or pasta pot 3/4 full and bring the water to a boil. Carefully and slowly add the baking soda to the boiling water. Add the baking soda a little at a time.

NOTE: There will be a bubbling up reaction when the baking soda hits the water but it’s just for a moment and then it stops. Stand back a bit just to be safe.

Boiling

Using a slotted spoon, gently drop each pretzel into the bath for 10 seconds, then turn over for another

Score the dough once like for a baguette with a razor blade or sharp knife.

NOTE: This step may have been part of my mistake. I think scoring it made them softer for a longer period of time so they had to bake for a longer period of time to get the crunch factor. Well, that and my ropes were too thick!

Ready to bake

Sprinkle with coarse salt. Bake the pretzels for about 15 to 20 minutes (mine took almost 30 minutes for a nice dark crust), depending on how dark you like them.

NOTE: I ended up baking them a second time because they were too soft in spots. Don’t let them touch when baking, those spots will be soft.

Done

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