Food

What to do With a Puffball

IMG_1830Overnight it seemed, this big blob sprung up in the yard.  Curious, I pulled it up, took it inside for a photo that was posted on Facebook with the question what is it.  Immediately came back a number of responses, mostly from Maine friends, identifying it as an edible puffball.

IMG_1833Edible?  I was a little doubtful but decided to give it a try.  First, I sliced it to find it  a little on the spongey side and solid all the way through.  So began a series of dishes ranging from omelets to risotto to pizza and adding chopped, diced orsliced pieces of puffball.  What was discovered was that a puffball is fairly tasteless until it is seasoned and has a very different texture from other mushrooms with which I am familiar.

IMG_1838Of all the ways it was prepared our favorite was mushroom soup.  I had no recipe  so I chopped a section of the puffball and sautéed it in butter with  some onion and garlic.  Chicken stock was added along with salt, pepper and herbs d’Provence.  The mixture simmered for about 10 minutes and then using a handheld blender(my favorite kitchen tool), I pureed it.  It tasted good, but thinking how it could be improved I added half and half and returned the soup to the stove and heated it through.  Talk about good, the hubby and I both had seconds.  Served with a green salad and some crusty bread, puffball mushroom soup is a simple and yummy dinner.

If you ever see one of these growing in your yard, pluck it right up.  If it’s white all the way through, don’t be afraid to use it, but if it’s yellowish and has a mushy texture, throw it in the trash.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

Food

Challenged!

“Growing up here, there was never more than a day or two of weather like this.”  

foggy daySo spoke my neighbor commenting on the run of less than perfect days experienced in the last month.  Like so many other places on the planet, midcoast Maine has had unusual heat that combined with fog and humidity have made for some pretty uncomfortable days.  Here we suffer through  because most homes have no air conditioning.  For me, that means spending more time than usual at the grocery or TJ Maxx where it is cooler.

The uncommon heat also means spending less time in the kitchen.  Not only does the heat take away appetite, using the cooktop or oven adds to the discomfort so whatever is easy to fix with minimal cooking is the answer.

Breakfast and lunch are easy. Cereal or a blueberry muffin heated quickly in the microwave suffices in the morning.  

A midday sandwich, especially one made with lobster, is more than satisfactory.  

healthy foodDinner is a bit more challenging, but I’ve gotten pretty creative with salads.  This time of year corn and tomatoes are at their best and layering them with cucumbers, red onion, olives, feta cheese and basil makes for a delightful and refreshing meal.

food photography

Sometimes it’s tomatoes stacked with mozzarella on top of lettuce flavored with diced pancetta and sprinkled with balsamic dressing that is dinner.

A favorite again takes advantage of the season’s bounty and adds grilled lobster.  There are never  complaints about anything made with lobster!

So, though we may not be enjoying the weather we can still celebrate food made with plenty from land and sea.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

Food, Recipes, Tablescapes

Foodie Adventure Revisited

Several of our Maine gourmet group joined us in Cortona for the April Foodie Adventure, so when we met for our first summer meal it seemed right to recreate some of what we made.

IMG_1487Setting the table to inspire memories of Italy was easy.  The centerpiece was a $3 find from the local Goodwill.

IMG_1488Clusters of red grapes repeated the look of the clusters on the candelabra.  Talk about an easy creation!

IMG_1394Dishes, each with a different Italian landscape and wine, bought some years ago at TJ Maxx completed the theme.

IMG_1393It’s hard to imagine a table coming together more quickly than this one.  With the plates having so much color and energy, there was no need for more than a simple background.

Now for the meal.  We prepared so many good dinners that it was hard to pick favorite dishes, but I finally decided on mozzarella with prosciutto and tomato confit for an appetizer and seafood pasta for the main course.  The appetizer was a big hit, and you might want to give it a try at your next Italian themed dinner gathering.

IMG_1400PROSCIUTTO BAKED BUFFALO MOZZARELLAWITH GARLIC & TOMATOES

2 T. olive oil

6 thin slices prosciutto

Tomato & Garlic Confit

6 6 oz. balls mozzarella

2 T. basil, coarsely chopped 

Brush the insides of small ovenproof ramekins with olive oil.  Line them with prosciutto, allowing some of it to extend to the top of the dish so it will crisp when baked.

Add 2 T. of the confit and top will a ball of the mozzarella.  Top with another tablespoon of the confit and drizzle with the remaining olive oil.

Bake at 350 for 15 minutes and allow to cool for 5 minutes.  Tope with basil and serve with crisp crostini.

Tomato & Garlic Confit

10 plum tomatoes

5 T. olive oil

Kosher salt and cracked black pepper

1/2 c. finely chopped yellow onion

4 large garlic cloves, minced

8 oz. tomato sauce

1/2 t. sweet paprika

1/2 t. sugar.

Core and halve the tomatoes lengthwise.  Place them cut side up on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and drizzle them with 2 T. of olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake for 40 minutes at 350.

Heat 3 T. olive oil in a medium pan and sweat the onions for  2 minutes over medium high heat.  Add garlic and cook briefly.  Reduce the heat and add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, paprika and sugar.  Cook for 30-35 minutes or until the mixture becomes very thick.

Place the mixture in a food processor and blend to a fine paste.

Note:  I suggest using only 1/2 mozzarella ball or 3-4 little ones as this is quite filling.  Also, when you bake be sure to put the dishes on a cookie sheet to avoid trashing your oven with grease from the prosciutto.  I wouldn’t let the meat overlap  the sides of the dish.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

Joining

Tablescape Thursday

 

Food, Recipes

Odds & Ends

Trying to use up everything in the refrigerator before leaving for Maine requires some creativity.  The fruit we can snack on, milk can go on cereal or in a smoothie, but the chicken sausage, spinach, kale, onion and salad fixings are another story.

IMG_1094So what to do with a collection of odds and ends?  Soup  seemed to be the best answer, and here’s what I pulled together.

IMG_1093Add to these a teaspoon of Hungarian sweet paprika which I have enough of to last a lifetime.  I will have to do as what was done in Hungary and put some in everything.

IMG_1101The end result of this concoction was pretty darned good and the accompanying salad’s ingredients used up the rest of the odds and ends.  The only thing missing was a good piece of cornbread!

If you are a soup lover, you might like this one that is hearty but not too heavy and very easy to prepare.

3 c. chicken broth

2-4 chicken sausage links

2-3 c. spinach and kale, torn into small pieces

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 cans of cannellini beans

1 can of diced tomatoes

1 heaping t. of sweet paprika (optional)

salt and pepper to taste

Blend all ingredients except for the greens together and simmer for about 20 minutes to allow flavors to blend.  Add spinach and kale and continue cooking until  they are wilted.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind 

Food, Recipes

Vegetarian Delight

Over the years with no one home but two, most of my friends have quit cooking dinner opting for takeout or restaurants.  That works for me every now and then, but I still enjoy preparing the evening meal because there are so many  things to try.  That makes the hubby very happy as he’d rather eat at home any day!

Another friend and her hubby are the same, so every week or so we share a meal.  They are not meat eaters which at first made meal planning a challenge, but it has gotten easier and done creatively, those meatless meals are downright tasty.

IMG_0566For ideas, I go no farther than these two cookbooks loaded with recipes to suit any palate.  There’s no chance I’ll ever get through the two!

The last dish tried was a mushroom/asparagus/cannellini bean combo that was so tasty not a bite survived.  Of course, meat lovers could add chicken or pork to go with it, but when something is as good as this it’s really not necessary.  Enough said, I’ll share the recipe!

Polenta with Asparagus, Mushrooms & Cannellini Beans

1 1/2 c. vegetable stock

1 1/2 pounds mixed mushrooms, thickly sliced

2 T. olive oil

1 bunch green onions, including as inch or so of green, thinly sliced

1 garlic clove, minced

15 oz. can cannellini beans

1 brunch of asparagus, steamed or roasted

1/2 c. Parmesan (serve on the side for a vegan friend, otherwise add it to the cooked polenta)

1 T. butter (can be left out)

chopped basil, parsley, chives or marjoram for garnish

Make the polenta using a packaged mix or yellow cornmeal cooked with water over a double boiler.  While it is cooking, do the chopping and mincing required to prepare the sauce.  

Heat olive oil in a large saute pan.  Add the mushrooms, season with sea salt and pepper and saute for about 5 minutes over medium heat. (It may be necessary to do the mushrooms in 2 batches depending on the size of your pan.)  Add most of the scallions and garlic and cook for another minute. Then pour in the stock and add the beans.  Simmer until the mushrooms are tender, about 10 minutes.

When ready to serve, add the butter and the remaining scallions to the mushrooms.  IMG_0455Spoon 1/2-3/4 c. of polenta into the center of a plate.  Arrange asparagus around it and spoon the sauce over the polenta. Garnish with chopped herbs.

What I like about this recipe is that it’s pretty easy to fix and all you really need to go with it is a hearty, crusty bread to use for soaking up the liquid.  Don’t be surprised when appreciative moans accompany this dish!

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind 

Food, Recipes

Easy Fixins

Do you ever have those days when you’ve been busy all day and when it comes time to preparing dinner you’re out of gas? That’s when I hope there’s something in the pantry or refrigerator that will combine in a simple to fix and tasty meal.

IMG_0291This night there were two salmon filets and a bunch of asparagus, and in just a few minutes they were in the oven roasting away.

IMG_0297While they were cooking, I whisked together a tangy sauce of key lime juice and soy sauce to pour over the fish and asparagus.

IMG_0302In less than half an hour, a healthy and satisfying dinner was ready to go on the table.

Roasted Salmon and Asparagus

2 salmon fillets, skin on

Salt and pepper

Olive oil

1/4 c. fresh lime juice

1 T. soy sauce

1/2 t. sugar

1 t. Ground coriander

Asparagus

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut dry ends from asparagus. Arrange salmon and asparagus in shallow baking pan,  season with salt and pepper and drizzle with a little olive oil.

Roast until salmon is no longer pink in the middle and flaky and asparagus is tender but still a little crisp, 20-25 minutes.

Whisk together lime juice, soy sauce, sugar and coriander. Spoon sauce over fish and asparagus and serve.

Now, that’s what I call simple and while the salmon and asparagus were roasting, there was even time to sit for a few minutes!  I guess I could have fixed a salad, too, but sitting was just too hard to  resist!

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

Food, Recipes

Cooking Light

If you are standing in line at the grocery or drug store checkout and see this magazine, buy it.  I can’t promise you will slim down but be assured you will prepare some very tasty recipes.

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve tried many….chicken and vegetable hand pies, meatloaf with mushroom gravy,  basil ricotta ravioli with spinach, lentil shepherd’s pie to name a few, and all were delish.  

A real favorite that sent mouth watering fragrance while cooking was Slow Cooker Sausage Cassoulet.    We are crazy about the traditional cassoulet, but this one is a close second and much easier to prepare.  The recipe is definitely one worth sharing.

Slow Cooker Sausage Cassoulet

1 t. olive oil

1 1/2 c. chopped yellow onion

1 1/2 c. diagonally cut carrot

1 c. chopped peeled turnip

1/2 c. chopped celery

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 15 oz. cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

2 (4 oz.) links fully cooked sweet Italian chicken sausage, chopped*

1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes

3/4 c chicken stock

2 t. chopped fresh thyme

1/2 t. kosher salt

1/4 t. black pepper

1 bay leaf

1 T. unsalted butter

1/2 c. whole grain breadcrumbs

1/4 c. grated Parmesan

2 T. chopped parsley

Heat olive oil in large nonstick skillet.  Add onion, carrot, turnip, celery and garlic; cook , about 5 minutes.**

Place mixture in a slow cooker.  Add beans, sausage, tomatoes, chicken stock and seasonings.  Cover and cook on low 8 hours or until vegetables are tender.

Melt butter in a small skilled.  Add breadcrumbs; cook until browned, stirring frequently.  Remove pan from heat, stir in cheese.  Stir half of mixture into cassoulet in cooker; sprinkle remaining mixture and parsley over each serving.

*I wasn’t able to find chicken sausage links so I used a ground Italian turkey sausage and browned it with the vegetables.  It worked fine as would any Italian sausage.

**If you have a multi purpose cooker, this step can be done in the cooker which means one less pan to clean.

This recipe makes about 6 servings and thankfully, there was enough left for another meal.  The cassoulet may  may have even even better the second time around.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind