Sunday, March 25, 2012

On The Road Again

I left San Diego last Saturday in a downpour, and arrived in Indiana to 80 degree weather.  It's been warm and spring has come to the Midwest, with people wearing shorts and flip flops in each place I've been.
On Friday night I drove to Bloomington, IN from Cincinnati to spend the weekend with our son.  Half way through the (normally) 2 1/2 hour trip, the heavens opened up and there was lightning, thunder, and torrential rains.  That was OK, I was in a heavy car, and the traffic was light, but all of a sudden the traffic came to a halt.  As we inched along, I couldn't see what was going on up ahead, as it was obvious, it was way ahead of where I was.  Then it happened..the traffic narrowed to one lane and in the midst of this torrential downpour I'm driving in 4-inches of hail that had driving in icy snow, with rain pouring down---

the ruts in this hail had this California girl dreaming of the days in Boston when the plows didn't get out to the streets for days.  A 2 1/2 hour trip took 4 hours, but I'm safe and have spent the weekend with Ryan watching basketball.  My bracket it totally destroyed, but I love March and all the madness. 

 Wishing you a happy Sunday from the Midwest, I'll be back on Monday with some recipes. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

St. Patrick, the man, the myth, the legend

Just a few facts, and insights into the Patron Saint of Ireland.  St. Patrick has a lot in common with St. Francis but he didn't talk with the animals the way St. Francis did!
A picture like this hung in my Nonna's kitchen from the time I could remember

St. Patrick was born in Britain to a wealthy family; at age 16 he was kidnapped and used as a slave in Ireland, tending sheep.  His conversion to Christianity came during those rough 7 years.  He escaped back to Britain, then heard a voice calling him back to Ireland. He became ordained and went back to Ireland to convert the pagan Irish. Life was tough. Patrick was beaten by thugs, harassed by the Irish, and admonished by his superiors.Sounds a bit like Wall Street.
The legend that Patrick banished the snakes from Ireland, is just that; there have never been snakes in Ireland.  Surrounded on all sides by ice cold waters, no self-respecting snake would swim there!

  St. Patrick was largely forgotten after his death, but slowly, his myth (including the banishment of the snakes) grew, with tales that he used shamrock leaves to represent the Trinity.

These tales are all attributed to the monks who continued his work in Ireland.  Now the patron Saint of Ireland, his feast day is celebrated in Irish churches, but it seems that the Irish immigrants in the US imbued this saints day with traditions that are uniquely American.
Corned beef and cabbage is one which I covered yesterday, and turning the Chicago River green is another.  They don’t turn the Liffey  green in Dublin!  But they DO drink a lot of Guinness!  On any given day 5.5 million pints of Guinness, are consumed; on St. Patrick's Day,  13 million pints are quaffed according to the good folks at Guinness.
Parades, packed pubs, and turning rivers green have gradually found their way back to the old sod. 
My Irish grandmother wasn’t a great cook, although she cooked for some of the most aristocratic families in Boston (what does that tell you?) I remember roast mutton with gravy you could skate on.  I think she was of the school that you had to cook everything to death and use every bit.  So, I don’t remember a lot of great meals from she or any of her sisters who were also cooks for the Brahmins.  But I do know that these days, there are some amazing cooks in Ireland.  Check out, and 

I'm heading into the kitchen to rustle up so dinner for Dr. C. and I before I leave tomorrow, I'll post those later today, until then have a great day!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Katherine Hepburn was Right.....

The definition of an eternity, is two people and a ham; I actually think she's saying that to Nick (Bogart) here--See the urgency on her face???
Love having Shamrocks in my yard

With St. Patrick's day a few days away, and most home cooks steeling themselves to make the traditional corned beef and cabbage (which can be tasteless, and bland, even with the pickled meat) I thought it was time to break with tradition and make a ham--2 days before St. Pat's  since I'm leaving on St. Pat's day for Indiana.  Now, with just Dr. C. and I here, this ham will feel like it's got the shelf life of a Twinkie, but I'll be using it to make a few things for Dr. C. to have in the freezer when I'm gone for the next 3 weeks on a teaching gig.

 I'm hoping when I fly into Chicago on Saturday I will be able to see the River tinted green (with vegetable dye)
 Corned beef and cabbage seems to be the traditional meal served here in the US, but only the cabbage is traditional in Ireland.

Cheap, and easy to grow the cabbage was served with Irish bacon, which is similar to Canadian bacon, not corned beef.

Irish Bacon

Corned beef was substituted by Irish immigrants because it was cheaper than bacon, and their Jewish neighbors introduced it to them.I actually think that Katherine could have included corned beef in her definition of an eternity, although you can make a stellar hash, or Reuben sandwiches with the leftovers,

as well as traditional Colcannon, an Irish potato and cabbage dish.
 So, back to my ham; I'm going to glaze it with a whole grain mustard, and apple cider, then torch it with my creme brulee torch and some raw sugar to give it a crackly glaze (that's what they do at the fancy ham stores)
and serve it with a potato gratin and salad.  Dr. C. can have ham sandwiches for a day, I'll freeze some of it, make a crustless quiche with Gruyere cheese, some of the potatoes and chunks of ham, and then freeze the bone for split pea soup. Click here for a recipe for the split pea soup.

Other ideas for St. Pat's would be a delicious Irish lamb stew covered in seasoned mashed potatoes, like the photo above. Last year's blog included a recipe for Guinness cupcakes which are PDG!

I will be back with my ham adventure tomorrow, but for today, here are two great recipes for corned beef and cabbage from my slow cooker book; both are way too easy, but taste amazing.  The balance between the sweet Riesling and the salty corned beef, is terrific, and you can boil down the cooking liquid and use that to sauce everything.
Even though the Queen refused a sip, I think you need to help yourself while making your dinner!

  The dark Guinness is a terrific combination with the salty corned beef, and flavors the vegetables, as well.

Corned Beef and Cabbage with Riesling

Serves 6 to 8

12 small Yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed
2 cups baby carrots
3 medium sweet yellow onions, like Vidalia, coarsely chopped
2 cups Riesling
½ cup whole grain Mustard
¼ cup Dijon mustard
¼ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
4 whole peppercorns
2 bay leaves
One 3 ½ to 4-pound corned beef brisket, rinsed, and any excess fat removed
One large head of green cabbage, cut in half, cored and thickly sliced

  1. Layer the potatoes, carrots, and onions in the insert of a 5 to 7-quart slow cooker. 
  2. In an 8-cup measuring cup, whisk together the Riesling, mustards, and sugar. Stir in the peppercorns and bay leaves. 
  3. Place the brisket on top of the vegetables in the insert; if you are using a 5-quart cooker, you may need to cut the brisket in half and stack the pieces on top of each other to make it fit. 
  4. Pour the Riesling mixture over the brisket, then strew the cabbage over the top of the brisket, cover the slow cooker and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours. 
  5. Remove the brisket from the cooker, and cover with aluminum foil for about 20 minutes, to rest.  Using a slotted spoon, remove the vegetables and arrange them on a platter.  Slice the brisket and arrange over the vegetables.  Strain the liquid from the crock and ladle a bit over the meat and vegetables before serving. 
Slow Cooker Savvy:  Due to the long cooking time required, if cabbage is quartered as it is when this meal is made on the stove top, it will disintegrate.  Slicing the cabbage gives you a blanket for the brisket, and some of the cabbage flavor when it is laid on the platter with the other vegetables.  If you would like to serve quartered cooked cabbage alongside your corned beef, add it during the last 2 hours of cooking time.  It will still retain its crispness.

Corned Beef with Guinness
Serves 6 to 8
 If you would like to add vegetables to this Corned Beef, add 12 small Yukon Gold potatoes, and 2 cups baby carrots to the corned beef and Guinness mixture.  If you would like to include cabbage, see instructions above in Slow Cooker Savvy.
Two 12-ounce cans Guinness or other dark ale
¼ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons mustard seed
6 peppercorns
1 bay leaf
2 all spice berries
3 large sweet yellow onions, such as Vidalia, sliced ½-inch thick into half moons
One 3 ½ to 4-pound corned beef, rinsed

  1. Cook the corned beef for 8 to 10 hours on low until the meat is fork tender.  Remove the meat from the cooker, and cover with aluminum foil for 20 minutes to rest before slicing. Remove the bay leaf, pepper corns and all spice from the cooking liquid.  Slice the brisket thinly, across the grain, and serve with mustard and dark bread, or slice and return to the slow cooker with the juices cover and keep warm to allow your guests to serve themselves. 
Even in this photo she still looks like she's had enough ham!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

How Does Your Garden Grow?

 Our weather has been mind-boggling this winter; cold and rainy (for here) then 80 degrees on the weekend---almost like Camelot, in that the rain is gone in the morning, which is a great thing, since no one here knows how to drive in weather.  Of course, this warmer weather is making everything in the garden blossom, and the colors this week were awesome, take a look.



Chinese lantern

Julia Child rose

Daffodil (just a few coming up)

Freesia (everywhere!)

Princess Flower

Wishing you a day filled with sunshine and joy.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Farm House Cafe

Tonight two friends and I had an amazing dinner at the Farm House Cafe here in San Diego.  If you haven't been, it's really worth the trip; some of us in North County think that anything south of Rte. 52 requires a sherpa and overnight stay!
Beet carpaccio with burrata
  Cream of celery soup with blue cheese whipped cream (pure heaven!)

Chicken Liver Mousse
Steak frites

Trio of pork flat bread (pork jowl, pulled pork and smoked bacon) amazing!

We did eat dessert, but they were devoured before their beauty shots, but don't miss the strawberry dacquoise with goat's milk creme, balsamic vinegar reduction and chiffonade of basil.  I won't be eating for another 3 days after this amazing feast!  Fear not, I will be trying to figure out that dacquoise, and will post it when I think it's ready for prime time.  If you live in San Diego, this restaurant is a must!  On Sundays they serve duck confit, I think that's on my list when I return home from my 3 week trip,until then, Bon Appetit!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

International Women's Day

Today we celebrate International Women's Day, even Google got into the action!  Today commemorates the achievements of economic, political and social rights of women.
Women have changed the face of our world; demonstrating for equality, human dignity, and human rights.  
 Women in the Sudan protesting inhumane treatment.
The women in Tahrir square suffered for their cause.
Women protest against sex trafficking.  

 Our great grandmothers protested so that we might vote.  
Women were given the right to vote because women took to the streets to protest inequality.

Women in Iraq (above) and Tunisia (below) are able to vote due to the sacrifice of others.  
Women organize, and serve others the world over.  

In Afghanistan, there is now a women's internet cafe in Kabul....we have come a long way baby!

Celebrate the women in your life; and celebrate freedom!