Dilly Good

I think fresh dill is one of the most under-used, under-appreciated herbs. So every chance I get to use it, I do. And not just for pickles! or for Spanakopita!

This time I decided to use it in a quiche! My favorite way to use up stuff anyway is to pair it with eggs.

I decided instead of a crust to make more of  “Tortilla Espanola” or a Spanish style potato omelet. You typically start these on the stove-top and finish them in the oven, but feeling a little lazy I decided to do the whole thing in the oven. So I got out the trusty glass pie dish that I use for everything and layered the ingredients into it. I made sure to slice each ingredient thin so it would cook easily in the time I typically bake my quiches (about 45 mins at 425 degrees)

The layers of ingredients  – inspired by fresh dill – took on a decidedly “Eastern European” inspiration with red onion, potato and dill. A couple tablespoons of sour cream added to my standard quiche mix made everything extra light and fluffy! A little grated parmesan cheese on top never hurt anything !

 

 

 

Avocado Lottery

Picking out an avocado at the store is a little like buying a dollar scratch ticket. You never know what you are going to get. Big winner or just a waste of a dollar.

It’s a low investment so you are not too worried if it doesn’t work out. But the dream of choosing just the right one and scoring big is strong! Oh the things you could do with the winnings.

When I pick out a winning avocado I know immediately that it needs to be enjoyed simply. The buttery flesh of a perfectly ripe avocado only needs a little salt, some ground cumin, a splash of lime juice. That’s it unless you want just a hint of hot sauce.

The secret to my nachos is simplicity. Oh and put the cheese down first. I use the broiler to melt the cheese onto the tops of the chips first. That way you get no soggy chips under there, the cheese acts like a barrier between the wet stuff and the chips. Next some fresh diced tomatoes if you can get your hands on some this time of year. A pinch of salt and pepper. The final topping is the perfect lottery-winning avocado. Mashed up with the above mentioned and simply spread on top. The avocado all fresh and velvety on top of cheesy, crisp chips. Truth be told you could leave off the tomatoes but why would you ever want to do that!

The colors are rather appropriate for the season, no?

The colors are rather appropriate for the season, no?

 

 

 

Hot “Stuffed”

Stuffed Cherry Peppers are a popular item around these parts.

These are the small, bright red peppers sometimes known as “pimiento” but usually referred to as “cherry peppers” based on their size and color. (Capsicum annuum for those who are really into it) They have a fairly low rating on the Scoville scale of heat but this doesn’t mean they don’t pack a bite of heat. For me they have an initial “prick” of heat but it subsides pretty quickly. But everyone is different so proceed with your level of caution.

Here in New England you will find these little guys pickled and served up along side platters of lamb kebobs or even more popular… as part of an Antipasto platter stuffed with a bit of salty cheese and prosciutto.

After spying fresh ones for sale at the city farm market, I recently decided that these little guys might serve as a nice vessel for a meat stuffing thereby elevating their status to “hot appetizer.” Just imagine these guys feeding the masses at your next football party or even as part of a fancy “passed hors d’oeuvres” affair.

I used a bit of ground pork (fatty butt to be specific) but a more lean cut of ground pork or beef would be good. (or lamb, yum…)  I added only seasoned salt, ground black pepper and fresh minced basil to the meat before stuffing the peppers and pushing a little hunk of Havarti cheese into the center. (Instead of stuffing the cheese in, you could add it as a topping in the last 10 mins of baking instead using Parmesan etc)

Here was my process….

remove the tops and all of the seeds to keep the heat down

Remove the tops and all of the seeds to keep the heat down.

 

perfect little vessels

Perfect little vessels – They can only hold barely a tablespoon.

Pack in the flavor with seasoned meat and a cube of cheese

Pack in the flavor with seasoned meat and a cube of cheese.

baked for 20 mins at 400 degrees with a drizzle of olive oil

Baked on an oiled sheet pan for 20 mins at 400 degrees with a drizzle of olive oil.                                  Maybe top with minced, fresh basil if you are feeling fancy.

Production notes

A pound of ground meat would fill approximately 24 peppers depending on the actual size of the peppers. You would probably use about 1/2 cup of fresh minced basil per pound of ground meat. About 2 tablespoons of seasoned salt per pound of meat and some good healthy pinches of ground black pepper.  The cheese cubes were tiny at about 1/4″ x 1/4″ in size. Any cheese would be good here, but one that melts willingly would work best.

Unusual “Pear-ings’

My mother has a pear tree in her yard and in the last few years it has really started producing. Each year we get bushels of pears off of it. This year I tried a classic savory tart involving blue cheese and pears.

I compared two kinds of blue cheese I had in my refrigerator. The one on the left was a “St. Clemens” which is traditional version imported from Denmark. The one on the right was a domestic raw-milk version from Wisconsin. I choose the domestic version because it was smoother, sweeter and had less of the that “blue cheese bite.”

I used a refrigerated puff pastry dough from the store and the whole thing took very little time and came out kinda fancy!

Mark the edges and dock the middle before pre-baking

Mark the edges and dock the middle before pre-baking

Slit the dough (try not to cut all the way through) to form a border and dock the middle before pre-baking about 10 mins in a 400 degree oven.

Pull it out and lay thinly sliced ripe pear slices in the middle. Sprinkle with a little salt and fresh ground black pepper to give it that savory seasoning. Dice a couple of tablespoons of salted butter and nestle them among the pear slices. Bake in the oven about 10-12 mins more until the pears just start to brown a bit and the crust is fully puffed and brown. Be careful that the crust doesn’t  burn.

pre-baked with pears, salt, pepper and a little butter

pre-baked with pears, salt, pepper and a little butter

 

 

 

When it comes out of the oven, crumble the room temperature blue cheese over the hot pears and drizzle honey generously over the all and serve.

Pretty to look at...

Pretty to look at…

...yummy to eat.

…yummy to eat.

 

Spring: Day 67 (Snow In Montreal)

A recent business trip to Montreal had me both shivering with cold and eating a yummy classic.

poutine

“Charlevoix poutine with braised pork & Migneron cheese” to be exact.

If you are unfamiliar with “poutine” I will explain.

In the most basic form it is french fries covered in cheese curds and gravy. The gravy is usually a chicken fat gravy. The cheese curds are the chewy, salty little pieces (milk solids) that are the beginnings of a great cheese. (like cheddar) Folks can opt to make Poutine more deluxe by adding meat, other cheeses and exotic garnishes.

This version had shredded, braised pork, an extra cheese called “Migneron de Charlevoix” and some green onion.

That extra cheese is extra special. Its made locally by Maurice Dufour and has helped bring the Quebec province into the artisanal cheese market.

This Poutine version really hit the spot that night considering the temperature was dropping rapidly into the 30’s and, yes I swear there was a few flakes of snow.

Author’s Note:

By the way… take a few minutes out of your day to remember that Memorial Day is more than grilled food and beach fun, it is a day for remembrance of those who have died in service to our country. Also a day to honor all who have served, not only in the past, but in the present.

Spring: Day 10 (eggs and lamb)

Well really just eggs because although I made lamb I didn’t photograph it.

Today – a week before Easter/Passover, a foot of snow in the backyard, the Bruins struggling to stay afloat towards the playoffs and the Red Sox 15 days away from their season opener, I decided to try vintage recipe.

I decided to try this weird egg dish that I came across in the pages of an old Better Homes and Garden publication. (circa 1970’s) A “Swiss egg bake” that was listed under the “budget-stretching cheese and egg dishes” section.

eggs and recipe 2

Admittedly my husband straight-up told me he wasn’t going to try it if I made it.

I said I wouldn’t force him.🙂

Sometimes you see something that is so wrong that you think “it must be right.” Prudently I decided right away to cut the recipe in half. That way I wouldn’t feel so bad if “no one” ate it.

Basically you mix and heat onion, canned soup, yellow mustard, Swiss cheese and milk together till hot but not bubbling and pour into a sprayed casserole dish and crack eggs into (onto?) the hot liquid. Line the edges with buttered toast and bake for 30 mins or so at 350 degrees until the eggs are set. Sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley before serving. ( oh and I would suggest letting this one cool off from the oven for a good 20 mins or so before sticking in your mouth – cause its HOT!)

So I pretty much followed directions – although I decided to saute fresh minced onion in a little butter first instead of using the dried instant minced onion called for. I think it was good but it did make it a tiny bit greasy perhaps. I also used an organic, gluten-free cream of mushroom soup instead of regular canned cream of chicken. And maybe my ratio of dairy ( I used full fat half and half instead of milk) was off because I didn’t feel this wasn’t as thick as it could have been coming out of the saucepan and into the baking dish.

Did I succeed? you be the judge…

Just imagine "hot" deviled egg dip!

Just imagine “hot” deviled egg dip! or perhaps a “de-constructed” eggs-in-a-hole with sauce!

Looking back I think perhaps if my sauce was much thicker to begin with the eggs might have been cuddled in better and maintained their shape. But coming upon the hard egg yolk swimming a sea of sauce was kinda fun. But really I just think they photoshop’d the crap out of the picture.

 

Production notes: if you like this dish and you could get it to be all pretty and such with the eggs and their yolks in all that glory – you could easily make this gluten-free and serve with veggies dippers instead – think artichoke spears and roasted slabs of carrot!

New Year, New Adventures

I am not a fan of New Year’s resolutions but I will resolve this year to never leave my readers stranded for over a month again!

I am coming down the home stretch of my graduate degree and with that in hand I hope to settle into a new job, regular hours and some adventurous cooking.

So as I finish up my degree, enter a new year and a new phase in life, here is a bright and easy way to enjoy “winter’s tomatoes.”

winter tomato pizza

This can be put together with items you probably already have in your kitchen.

I happened to have a “tube” of pizza dough on hand that I let hang around in my fridge for just such emergency dinners, but you could easily make your own.

I mixed a small, almost equal, amount of mayonnaise and finely grated Parmesan cheese with a generous pinch of garlic powder and salt/pepper, thinned it with a little olive oil, and used this mix as a spread on top of the dough.

Meanwhile I took the sad, winter cherry tomatoes and brighten them up with dried oregano, salt,pepper, just a tiny pinch of sugar and some splashes of red wine vinegar.

I cooked the pizza on my preheated pizza stone until the crust was all crisp and toasty and the tomatoes were just wrinkling.

Easy, bright, quick and delicious – just as I hope 2015 will be!