Blueberry Inheritance

What do you do with a freezer full of blueberries? Blueberries that were lovingly picked by hand during the height of the season by your mother? Especially when that freezer that belongs to your recently deceased mother?

You start making recipes that have blueberries!

I would like to say that I packed up all the blueberries and put them in my freezer – and eventually I will. But right now I am trying to make room in my freezer for all those blueberries. And I mean a lot of blueberries. My mother picked enough every year during the season (approximately July-August in New Hampshire) to have blueberries at least once a week between September and June. So approximately 40 pints in the freezer?

So this week I made single serving size blueberry bread pudding for my husband (used about 1/2 of a pint of berries up) with some leftover sweet focaccia bread I happen to have on hand and a quick custard of sugar, vanilla, eggs, whole milk. I also like to add a dash of cinnamon – which I consider to be the blueberry’s best friend.

 

 

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Living Simply

I had to take a long break from Cabinet Stew recently to attend to my mother who was ill and recently passed away. I have returned from this sad hiatus with a renewed respect for my time left on this earth and an appreciation for living more simply.

My mother was a 40 year vegetarian and a general health enthusiast. She never felt the need to “clutter” her plate with complicated ingredients, bold spices or fancy preparations. She felt nature was best left untouched as much as possible. At the same time she never passed up the chance to try something new, leading us as a family, to one “off the beaten path” bakery to another. By ten years of age I already knew where to get the best spanakopita (greek spinach pie) in my hometown.

My father in contrast was a man who appreciated a sausage as another might appreciate a vintage car or rare wine. He was a connassuier of hot dog carts, hash browns and strangely, fresh radishes. (which he ate like candy from a bowl in front of the TV)

Having observed both of them my whole life, I shaped my own eating habits around a combination of them. I love bold flavors and never pass up a good hot dog. I think nostalgically of my father when I eat radishes. However I don’t think twice about having a meal that doesn’t contain meat – in fact I don’t even recognize it as a “vegetarian” meal – its just simply a meal. I never met a vegetable or fruit I don’t like. And of course I have to seek out the most obscure local joints to try something new.

Today I salute my mother and her simple tastes.

simple-breakfast

Toast spread with Ricotta di Pecora (raw sheep milk ricotta) – topped with maple syrup and Honey Dew melon.

 

 

 

 

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 !

 

 

 

Brunch On The Porch

If you have been reading along perhaps you already know about the most beautiful dining room in New Hampshire.  If not… well that’s okay too, but you can see it here and here.

This particular weekend we had stopped for bagels on the way up and I spotted some “French toast” bagels and grabbed a couple of those along with a honey wheat and a couple of cinnamon raisin to bring up to my mothers. I was already forming inspiration with those French toast bagels in mind but I hadn’t quite nailed it down yet.

While reviewing my “potluck” cookbook for an upcoming event I stumbled across the perfect use for those leftover bagels. A “French toast casserole!”

But of course I had to improvise partly because that is what I do and partly because I was in my mother’s kitchen with some limitations on ingredients. I also cut back on the sugar – preferring instead to bump up the sweetness with addition of maple syrup served at the table on the side.

The recipe

Start with either a regular loaf of bread (16oz) or as I did – 3 large bagels. Break up your bread of choice into large chunks and toast by baking it on a sheet pan in a 325 degree oven until dry, light and slightly browned.

Spray a 9″ x 13″ glass baking dish with non-stick baking spray and pack the bread in. Next: make the custard.

Whisk together: 6 large eggs, 2 1/2 cups half and half, 2 tsp vanilla extract, 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg, 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, 3 tablespoons maple syrup. Pour this mix over the bread (bagels) pushing down any bread that doesn’t get totally coated with liquid. At this point cover it with plastic wrap tightly and store overnight in the refrigerator.

bread and custard ready

The “golden” colored bagel pieces are the “French toast” ones.

In the morning, take the dish out of the refrigerator to get the chill off while you preheat your oven to 350 degrees and make your topping.

The topping consists of: 1 stick of salted butter, softened. 3 tablespoons of maple syrup. 1 cup of chopped nuts (measure pre-chopped) – I used walnuts but pecans would be divine! Mix it all and spread as evenly as you can in clumps on top of bread/custard. Sprinkle about 1/4 cup granulated sugar on top to give it a bit of a sweet crunch on top.

ready for the oven

The next morning, with the topping (light-colored clumps) spread on top. Ready for the oven!

Bake on middle rack, uncovered for 1 hour. It should be puffy and golden brown and firm to the touch in the middle. Pull it out- let cool for 10 mins and serve with warm maple syrup to taste. And bacon.

 

 

Spring: Day 58 (Brunch On The Porch)

Nicest dining room in New Hampshire!

Nicest dining room in New Hampshire!

When I considered the restaurant brunch options for Mother’s Day in my mom’s hometown I couldn’t think of any place nicer then her porch. Besides I know her likes and dislikes better than any chef and I love to cook!

We had a full day ahead of us, opening up the porch to ready it for summer, changing out storm windows for screens and getting the hoses out in the extensive yard.

So breakfast on Mother’s Day was not going to be an elaborate, leisurely affair but rather a quick, nourishing start to our busy day.

And lucky for everyone her garden chives are already up so I paired that with the “corn and tomatoes on the porch” leftovers from the night before to make tasty omelets!

So fresh and yummy – even if I do say so myself! and of course it’s never really too early for a decadent dessert made with early strawberries, warmed slightly and sweetened with just a touch of honey, served over the best vanilla ice cream! (crumbled chocolate brownies optional!)

dessert

Author’s note:

I actually graduate tomorrow (yippee!) and I am looking forward to new and more frequent blog entries now that I can have my life back! Stay tuned….

Springing Forward

Here in the metro Boston area clocks have been turned forward an hour, the Fenway Park season-opener home game is in less than a month and there is still 3 feet of snow on the ground. WAIT. (imagine sound of scratching record here) SNOW? Still on the ground? ugh.

So like everybody around here I am trying to single-handedly make spring arrive sooner by surrounding myself with spring-like things including light, bright “springy” food.

Today it was a Mediterranean inspired brunch. Roasted potatoes with garlic and rosemary butter. Burger patties with oregano and Penzey’s Lamb Seasoning mixed in before cooking. (if only they had been lamb instead of beef!) A bright, tangy and sweet “tapenade” on top – chopped olives, feta and sweet red bell pepper all mixed with a lemony-oil dressing.

 

If my grill wasn’t still in thigh-high snow, I would have grilled the burgers – “sigh” – maybe by July.

Convenient Breakfast

In the true spirit of “Cabinet Stew” I managed to pull together a breakfast casserole with things that were just hanging around the freezer and fridge.

Production Notes

Spray your dish first with a non-stick spray.

This is a small dish – About 7″x 10″ – so double the filling and eggs to serve a crowd!

Not noted above but in full-disclosure; I actually used up 4ozs of leftover full-fat sour cream by whisking it into the eggs first and then pouring over the goodies. It made the whole thing that much more luxurious and delicious! (but leave it out if you are dairy- free!)