Eclipse and Eggplant

Traveled about 70 miles south to get closer to the path of totality, but at only 98% the temperature dropped, sky turned a peculiar color, birds stopped singing, but the fish kept rising.

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Back home I finally harvested my meager summer crop of carrots. Here’s what it looks like when you don’t thin your carrots:

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And here’s what they look like when you’ve tossed them with olive oil, Maldon salt and roasted at high heat and strewn across a rib eye steak:

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YEAH baby! Like candy!

Finally harvested some of my Italian white eggplant, sliced them and then grilled them. Again with olive oil and salt, but not much, so needed something…decided on a splash of walnut oil to finish. Lunch was sublime.

Here are some garlic scapes. I learned a new word. Scapes are the flower tops of a garlic plant. I used them tossed with baby red new potatoes and roasted the lot.

That’s about all that’s happening in the Lucky Cat Kitchen these days.

 

Blood orange, polenta, almond, cardamom and lavender cake: wow.

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YES! The most luscious thing you can imagine…without chocolate. Though, on second thought, maybe a drizzle of chocolate might be something I’ll try next time.

A blood orange, almond flour and cornmeal/polenta cake with my favorite add-ins/ons: cardamom and lavender. WOW. All my favorite things in one cake. Life doesn’t get any easier than this. Bet you wish you had some. And you can: it’s so SIMPLE!!!

Get out your cast iron pan, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Fired up, ready to go!

Blood Orange Almond Polenta Cake with Lavender and Cardamom  

4 T unsalted butter
3/4 cup  packed light brown sugar
1-2 blood oranges, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp ground cardamom

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup polenta or cornmeal
1/2 cup almond flour (or substitute 1/2 cup all-purpose flour)
2 T baking powder
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
4 eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla or 1 tsp vanilla, 1/2 tsp orange extract, 1/2 tsp almond extract
1 cup milk

fresh thyme
dried lavender flowers

8-10″ cast iron pan

In a cast iron pan, melt butter over medium heat, stir in cardamom and brown sugar. Warm until bubbling, remove from heat. Thinly slice blood oranges and using the best slices, arrange in one layer on top of brown sugar. Set aside.

Mix cornmeal, flour, and almond flour (if using) with baking powder and salt in a medium mixing bowl. In a larger mixing bowl, beat 3/4 cup butter until fluffy, add granulated sugar and beat again until combined. Add eggs one at a time, beating until just combined, then beat in extracts. Add 1/2 of the flour mixture, then all the milk, then the rest of the flour mixture.

Spoon batter over oranges, spread evenly. Bake 45-60 minutes. Time depends on the size of your cast iron pan. Smaller pan = thicker cake, longer bake time. After cooling, run a knife around the sides and flip onto a plate.

Optional: garnish with fresh thyme leaves…not so optional: lavender flowers. May be served with a dollop of freshly whipped cream or my favorite: homemade lavender honey ice cream. Though it really only just needs YOU. Like true love should be.

No matter if you have someone special in mind, or just your own special self, I guarantee this cake will make you SMILE and feel LOVED.

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Jasmine always makes me feel happy and LOVED. Dogs are our guardian angels and IMHO, Weimaraners are the archangels.

 

 

Winter days and nights

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Minus 15 is cold.

I’m leaping into the new year and trying to stay warm!

A few culinary accomplishments from the past few weeks: my 2nd year of making a yule log cake creation using David Lebovitz’s recipe with candied orange peel and ricotta filling and dark chocolate frosting, with meringue mushrooms:

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crazy good

And on a lighter note, in my refrigerator is a tub of percolating homemade kimchi. This is my first attempt at making kimchi. Amazing that I’ve waited so long to make this, as I have had a long running love affair with the stuff. I am obsessed with that fizzy hot feeling and now I’m really au courant since probiotics are on everyone’s lips.

I used Lauryn Chun’s recipe for square cut Napa cabbage kimchi from her cookbook, “The Kimchi Cookbook”– as well as the Crazy Korean Cooking E-jen kimchi container.

I am delighted to report that this container has “contained” all those delicious smells that could permeate the rest of my refrigerator. As much as I adore kimchi I don’t want it to eat it or smell it every waking moment…but nearly so! Chun’s recipes are all tantalizing and tempting. WHO doesn’t need more effervescence in their life?

Chun’s cookbook includes a lot of alluring recipes using various forms of kimchi as an ingredient. I cannot wait to try cipollini onion kimchi with roasted brussel sprouts, apples and pine nuts.

Another new favorite: green pancakes with lime butter from Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbook, “Plenty”. A splendid bright spot in winter. And if I would not see any increase in weight, I would smear this butter on every single thing I eat.  I was forced to wrap it up and put it in the freezer, and save it for another day.

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Yotam Ottolenghi : green pancakes with lime butter.

But, are you looking for something to make on a cold night that is super fast, filling, AND filled with lots of healthy greens?

I’ve been searing thin cuts of meat in a cast iron pan at high heat with lemon, capers, and a little vermouth. When the meat is done, I toss in arugula and/or spinach and let it wilt on top. Dinner DONE. Delicious. Infinite variations. I also throw in spinach to wilt in the final moments of cooking when making Indian or Thai curries instead of using rice.

Here are some photos of the latest incarnation of this technique:

Perfect for a last minute yet healthy dinner.

Jasmine likes it too.

 

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Election Day Menu: champagne, bison nachos and Mexican chocolate ice cream.

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Two quotes that sum up my dinner menu for election day:

“In victory, you deserve Champagne, in defeat, you need it.” Napoleon

“My culture is a very dominant culture, and it’s imposing and it’s causing problems. If you don’t do something about it, you’re going to have taco trucks on every corner.” Marco Gutierrez, founder of the group Latinos for Trump

In that spirit, I’ve got the champagne chilling (domestic sparkler actually…who knew I was so patriotic?) ready to accompany a bison and black bean nacho creation, that will coexist with homemade roasted tomatillo sauce and pico de gallo. The ice cream contains chocolate and almonds, along with cinnamon and orange: I vote YES!

No matter what your politics, you can’t go wrong with this menu. (Though it is no secret that I’ve voted for the “nasty woman” that loves pant suits in primary colors.)

Here’s the quick and dirty meal plan (sort of like the presidential campaign):

Pico: Roughly chop 2 lbs of tomatoes (removing seeds), raw onion to taste, 1-2 jalapenos and a bunch of cilantro. Add freshly squeezed lime juice and lots of salt and pepper. Let sit at room temperature.

Tomatillo sauce: Preheat broiler. Place about 8 large tomatillos on a sheet pan (after removing husks, rinsing and drying) with some generous slices of raw onion, 2 garlic cloves (unpeeled) and 2 jalapenos, seeds/stem removed. Toss with some olive oil and salt. Place under broiler, watch closely. When tomatillos begin to get dark on top, flip over and stir the rest until nicely browned. Remove and cool, press out garlic cloves, and place in either blender or food processor with some lime juice and salt to taste. Add a pinch of honey if necessary.

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Bison: 1-2  lb ground bison. Chop an onion and 3-4 cloves of garlic. Saute in pan with a little olive oil. Chop a bell pepper and add that too. Add bison, brown for a bit, and add cumin, chili powder, oregano and salt. Cook bison until no longer pink. Tomatoes optional.

Purist Guacamole: Mash together avocados, pressed garlic (one small clove), fresh-squeezed lime juice, salt, a little olive oil.

Assembly: start layering, using thicker variety of tortilla chips, a jumble of shredded cheeses, (your choice!), black beans (from a can, rinsed and drained) etc, etc, etc. It’s not rocket science and the more the merrier. Place under broiler. When it looks sufficiently molten, remove from oven, and top with the cold ingredients of your choice: sour cream, guacamole, sliced radishes, pico de gallo, etc, etc.

Pour some more bubbly and dig in.

As for the ice cream, it’s from David Lebovitz’s fabulous cookbook shown below. All of his recipes from all of his cookbooks are flawless. I know because I’ve made them all!

I’ve added a few small things to his recipe: a little orange peel, a little espresso powder and a tiny amount of almond extract.

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The sparkler I’m pouring is a Scharffenberger Brut from California’s Anderson Valley. A beautiful place near the coast that is well worth visiting…ahhh…memories…oops I went off track there for a moment.

Does it “go” with bison nachos? Heck yeah!

See below for what life is like when you don’t have a dishwasher.

Just like the “good old days…”  you know, like some candidates would like to bring back?

NO THANK YOU.

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Go tell it on the mountain Aretha.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yeah they were all yellow…

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A few years ago,  I tore a calf muscle dancing to Coldplay in my living room. Upon hearing this story, my 23 year old niece commented that it is not possible to dance to any Coldplay song, but I beg to differ. The flingy guitar part at the beginning of the song “Yellow” was the culprit. Upon hearing the first notes, I leapt up off my carpet in unabashed joy…and a few hours later was seen exiting the hospital with a giant boot and crutches.

ANYWAY, I lived. And all this yellow squash reminds me of that moment.

Here’s a great recipe for summer and lots of YELLOW!!!!

Yellow squash with coriander and feta

serves 6-8

6 yellow or golden squash
1 onion (red or white, doesn’t matter)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 generous handfuls of chopped cilantro  (coriander)
2 generous handfuls of crumbled feta
olive oil
pepper
vermouth or white wine

Slice squash, chop onion. Heat olive oil in generously sized sauté pan. Add onion and cook until soft and nearly brown. Add squash and cook for approximately 4 minutes. Add salt, pepper, ground coriander and cumin and continue cooking. If squash is looking a bit dry, fling in a bit of vermouth or white wine. Just before serving throw in the feta and chopped cilantro.

A BURST OF YELLOW and SUMMER!

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Jasmine and a yellow Sweetgrass Bamboo rod

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and…more squash

Madiran Wine and Wild Asparagus

The latest issue of The Economist reports that retail giant Walmart is madly retooling their business strategies as more consumers turn to online shopping for convenience and “treasure hunt” at discount name brand retailers. Ponder this statistic: 90% of Americans live within 10 miles of a Walmart.

As one who is always “on trend” (ha), I am a consummate consumer treasure hunter. So, here are my latest discoveries in the world of food and wine.

Madiran wine. Tannat grapes. Southwest France.

Madiran is also known as the healthiest of red wines due to the high levels of procyanidins it contains.  wikipedia

Where has this been all my life? Found this at my “local” (90 miles away) Costco.

Here’s a little more information from the “Wines of Southwest France” website:

Surrounding the village of Madiran, located 35 miles from the Pyrenees Mountains and 50 miles from the Atlantic Ocean, are two fully overlapping winemaking appellations – AOP Madiran for red wines, and AOP Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh for whites.

Madiran reds are made primarily from the Tannat grape, which produces hearty, textured, refined wines worthy of aging. However, thanks to modern winemaking techniques, Madiran growers today are making a softer, fruitier style of Tannat that’s also enjoyable in its youth.

The Madiran vineyard extends across 3,400 acres of rolling countryside and is tended by 200 wine producers.

Wild asparagus is here…and what is better than free? NOTHING!

SO, open some of that Madiran, pick some wild asparagus and hang out with friends in the sun. Like these guys:

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Speaking of bison…what better to go with a bottle of Madiran than a beautiful piece of grilled bison?? The mind races!!! 

Here’s a quick recipe to go with that wild asparagus:

Cooper Sisters Asparagus Sauce

Blend mayonnaise, fresh lemon juice, and fresh or dried dill. Eat with asparagus.

How’s that for simple and delicious?!

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Jasmine is all for simple and delicious and spending less time in the kitchen and more time exploring.

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For more info on Madiran, check out this article:

http://www.thewinesociety.com/guides-wine-regions-obscure-madiran

 

 

 

Cauliflower Gratin: let go & gratin.

Work. Everyone’s gotta do it. (Well ok, not everyone, but most of us.) Even those who live in magical places, like Twin Bridges, Montana or even…Venice!

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can you hear me now?

Now I wouldn’t mind taking my boat to work, especially with my dog…

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a plumber’s gondola with faithful dog

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Venetian version of a Costco run.

But on a day like today, (wind blowing, moody skies) it’s great to have a bunch of cauliflower laying about to make some cauliflower gratin: creamy goodness that makes you feel like all is right with the world. (Provided you don’t listen to or watch any political discussions for the next 24 hours.)

Why all the photos from Venice? Because Cauliflower and Italy go together like a horse and carriage, love and marriage, etc. etc. There are many fabulous Italian recipes for this noble vegetable. Check out the many versions of cauliflower gratin by the Italian cookery author, Marcella Hazan.

Sadly, Marcella Hazan passed away at the age of 89 in 2013. In her NY Times obituary, her cooking was explained as thus: “Mrs. Hazan embraced simplicity, precision and balance in her cooking. She abhorred the overuse of garlic in much of what passed for Italian food in the United States, and would not suffer fools afraid of salt or the effort it took to find quality ingredients.”

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She sounds like my power animal.

 

Cauliflower gratin

This recipe is adapted from one written by Ina Garten, “The Barefoot Contessa”. It is simple and satisfying. It can be made ahead and chilled until baking so that you are free to enjoy other white things, like a big glass of white wine before your guests arrive. And when your guests rave about it, you can say, “Oh it was nothing!” because by that 2nd glass of wine you’ve forgotten the time you took to make the dang thing.

1 (3-pound) head cauliflower, cut into large florets
salt and pepper
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, divided
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups hot milk
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
3/4 cup freshly grated Gruyere, divided
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Cook the cauliflower florets in a large pot of boiling salted water for 5 to 6 minutes, until tender but still firm. Drain.

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add the flour, stirring constantly for 2 minutes. Pour the hot milk into the butter-flour mixture and stir until it comes to a boil. Boil, whisking constantly, for 1 minute, or until thickened.

Take pan off the heat, add 1 teaspoon of salt, the pepper, nutmeg, 1/2 cup of the Gruyere, and the Parmesan.

Pour 1/3 of the sauce on the bottom of an 8 by 11 by 2-inch baking dish. Place the drained cauliflower on top and then spread the rest of the sauce evenly on top. Combine the bread crumbs with the remaining 1/4 cup of Gruyere and sprinkle on top. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and drizzle over the gratin. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the top is browned. Serve hot or at room temperature.

A great topping variation instead of bread crumbs: toasted pine nuts