Memorial Day is now a memory. Hopefully, a joyful one. Now it’s time to get serious about summer. That’s why I just made my first batch of ice cream. This past winter I treated myself to more scoops at Berthillon’s (Paris most famous glacier) than necessary and regretted not one lick. Missing that occasional flavor burst in a cone, I mixed together Lemon-Speculoos ice cream this week. It’s ridiculously creamy and delicious. Why not pull out your ice cream machine? Show some love to those you love.
I showed some love to the evening crew at The Gant’s front desk with Lemon-Speculoos Ice Cream Waffle Bowls.
This week’s Cook-the-Book-Fridays recipe choice is Porc Fumé Façon Barbecue. We Iowans translate that to Smoky Barbecue-Style Pulled Pork. Although I’ve made Pork chops, loin, shoulder, tenderloin, sausage and ham and bacon, I’ve never “pulled pork.”
SMOKY BARBEQUE-STYLE PULLED PORK SANDWICH with COLESLAW and SWEET GHERKINS
Ten years ago I successfully relied on You Tube for a tutorial on How To Set a Mousetrap. Perhaps, I decided, this called for another You Tube adventure. Readers, if I had viewed all the available You Tube videos on “pulling pork,” I wouldn’t have had the time to “pull” this pork. I watched three videos. I conquered pulling pork which produced perfect sandwiches for Memorial Day.
A GRATITUDE ATTITUTE
We first moved to Aspen in 1988. Each morning when I can wake up in this beautiful place, I never forget or take for granted how fortunate I am to live here. My photos in this week’s post especially offer a glimpse into why this is so. I dusted off my gratitude journal last month and plan to express visually what I often express with words. Where does it say that a gratitude journal has to be loaded with lists?
Hopefully you feel that same joy living in your chosen homeplace. Imagine what photos you might take to represent the gratitude of that. “Life is like ice cream, enjoy it before it melts.”
On Memorial Day I always walk through Ute Cemetery, listed on the National Register of Historic Places and located a few minutes from my condo. Of the 175 people buried there, 39 are the Civil War veterans memorialized on this stone.
After the war, many Civil War veterans settled in the West. These 39 veterans are buried on the crest of a ridge in the cemetery, one row above another. Our local war veterans always place flags at their stones every Memorial Day. Honor. Respect. We never forget.
On Memorial Day Donna Grauer and I also visited Aspen Grove Cemetery where many of Aspen’s early community movers and shakers and 12 more Civil War veterans are buried. Donna spotted this broken, discarded statue leaning against a ponderosa pine.
Ever the volunteer Ranger whether in or out of uniform, Donna climbed down into the woods to check out the statue. She found the head and we managed to put it together so we can safely secure it later. St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of ecologists, rises again to watch over his flock.
The WONDER OF WILDLIFE
Thanks to advice and assistance from my new Gant neighbor, Nancy Ferrillo, I now have a balcony filled with five flower boxes and four hummingbird feeders. First time ever. Six years and a very-determined-neighbor later, the hummers are deliriously happy and I have the balcony of my dreams.
Besides completing that project this week, I also began my USFS volunteer ranger duties. The highlight of my week, however, was a full-day Spring Migration Birding Trip led by Rebecca Weiss, the naturalist specializing in birds and botany at the Aspen Center of Environmental Studies and photographer Mark Fuller, newly retired after 37 years as director of the Ruedi Water and Power Authority. Although I’ve been on countless day-long birding excursions, this was an unbelievable and beautiful day with 53 different species sightings. I’ve only honor and respect for these wondrous creatures.
We started our day e-a-r-l-y at Rock Bottom Ranch in Carbondale. Our leaders, Rebecca and Mark.
For the past two years Rebecca and Mark have collaborated on this long-anticipated book which will be published in mid-July.
We looked up and saw a raptor flying overhead. It turned out to be a Golden Eagle. Not one. Not two. But, three. Three majestic eagles flew slowly by and disappeared over the ridge. Amazing. Dale Armstrong Photo
Look carefully to find the three eagles flying over our Rockies. (Whoops, one eagle has “flown the coop,” and gone over the ridge. My bad. This is a correction.) Dale Armstrong Photo
A raccoon at rest…..in a Cottonwood tree.
A warbling vireo sits on the nest. Dale Armstrong photo.
A peacock. Chickens. Rock Bottom Ranch. What can I say?
LEMON-SPECULOOS ICE CREAM by David Lebovitz, The Perfect Scoop
3 large lemons
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
Pinch of salt
5 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups crumbled Speculoos or gingersnap cookies
1. Zest the lemons directly into a food processor or blender. Add the sugar and blend until the lemon zest is very fine.
2. Warm the milk with the lemon-scented sugar, 1/2 cup of the heavy cream, and the salt in a heavy saucepan. Cover, remove from heat, and let infuse for one hour.
3. Rewarm the lemon-infused mixture.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour warm lemon-infused milk into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.
5. Pour the remaining 1 1/2 cups cream into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top.
6. Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream. Discard the lemon zest and stir until cool over an ice bath.
7. Chill the mixture thoroughly in your refrigerator for 2 to 3 hours or overnight.
8. Freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. As you remove it from the ice cream maker, stir in the cookie bits and put in a freezer container.
9. Put into freezer until ready to serve.
TIP: Speculoos is A biscuit-like cookie made popular in Belgium. It’s very similar in flavor to a gingersnap. If you cannot find Speculoos in your grocery store, gingersnaps are a fine substitute.
“Everyone has a story, the air is full of stories.” Isabelle Allende
COQ AU VIN (chicken in red wine sauce)
Do you realize January 2017 has packed its bag, left the house and won’t return? Already two days into February, it’s Groundhog Day. Punxutawney Phil saw his shadow. Looking ahead, (or, not,) Super Bowl Sunday, the Oscars and Presidents’ week-end are in the line-up. Oops, Valentine’s Day. Forget that at your peril.Like most of you, this Life of mine has never seen lazy days. Whatever time I have, I fill up 100%. If you’re honest, don’t we all?
I discovered a very large NAPA (Chinese) CABBAGE in my Talley Farms box this week. It was the size of a football.
SWEET and SOUR ROASTED NAPA CABBAGE WEDGES (The cabbages you’ll find in the markets are smaller, a more appropriate size).
Just as when it snows in the Rockies, the rains have lightened the hearts of Central Coast residents. California still is water-deprived but there’s been relief. And, Mother Nature, responding to the slightest of care, is blooming and going green.
This Great White Egret is a frequent visitor to Estero Bluffs. When I saw him, he was just finishing “something.” He has a neck that would have madeAudrey Hepburn envious.
I stood quietly for 15 minutes before the egret flew off.
For birds it’s all about food and safety.
LANDING IN GREENER PASTURES
Last year, during my four months in Cali, I got a sense of this remarkable state. Thankful for the opportunity with a car that was willing, I traveled its length and breadth. If I qualify as a lifetime learner, that 7,500 mile journey was a graduate seminar.
LAST WEEK I PACKED A LUNCH AND SPENT SEVERAL HOURS AT THE SAN SIMEON BAY WHARF AND SS STATE BEACH PARK, BOTH ADJACENT TO THE HEARST PROPERTY AND ACROSS THE HIGHWAY FROM THE HEARST CASTLE.
AS I WALKED OUT ON THE WHARF, THIS CALIFORNIA GULL WAS PARKED ON THIS POST AND NOT ABOUT TO MOVE. I GOT RELATIVELY CLOSE. HE DIDN’T CARE. RIGHT BELOW THE GULL IS A SINK WHERE FISHERMEN CLEAN THEIR CATCH AND THE GULL WAS NOT ABOUT TO GIVE UP HIS SPOT.
HERE’S THE REASON …..A SHORT TIME LATER,THIS FISHERMAN, A REGULAR ON THE WHARF, ARRIVED. HE HAS STORIES TO TELL AND ROCKFISH TO CATCH. THE GULL WANTS THE REMAINS.
AS I WAS LEAVING THE PARK, I SPOTTED THIS ZEBRA NEAR THE HEARST PROPERTY FENCE LINE. THERE ARE STILL ABOUT 24 ZEBRAS THAT DESCENDED FROM THE HERD HEARST HAD FOR HIS EXOTIC ANIMALS ZOO. USUALLY THEY GRAZE UP IN THE HILLS. THIS GUY WAS 10′ FROM ME AND IS QUITE A BEAUTIFUL CREATURE.
This year, because of self-imposed deadlines for writing projects, I decided to wander in my own backyard. I was reminded by those daily adventures that everyone has a story. Granted, not all are cliffhangers but each carries a whiff of charm, mystery or ya-gotta-hear-this.
I’VE NEVER SEEN A BLUE-AND-WHITE COW, I NEVER HOPE TO SEE ONE BUT I CAN TELL YOU ANYHOW I’S RATHER SEE THAN BE ONE.
The key, for me, at least, is to slow down, look and listen. Two of those traits I’ve never mastered successfully! This winter I am blessed with the luxury of Time which, for me, is a gift, something to embrace and not squander. January was squander-free, every day filled with a gem or two for the memory bank.
SO SIMPLE. SO PERFECT.
It’s Cook-the-Book Fridays and this week’s recipe is french deliciousness, Coq au Vin. One of Julia Child’s signature dishes and included in her 1961 Mastering the Art of French Cooking, she often made it on her PBS cooking show. I served this braised stew with a baguette and Sweet and Sour Roasted Napa Cabbage Wedges (recipe below.)
SWEET and SOUR ROASTED NAPA CABBAGE WEDGES adapted from Cooking Light magazine.
Yield: Serves 4
1 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon whole-grain Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 head napa (Chinese) cabbage, cut lengthwise into quarters
1. Place a large roasting pan in oven. Preheat oven and pan to 450°.
2. Combine first 7 ingredients in a small bowl.
3. Coat cut sides of cabbage with cooking spray. Place cabbage, cut sides down, on preheated pan. Bake 6 minutes. Turn cabbage onto other cut side; bake an additional 6 minutes. Remove pan from oven. Heat broiler to high. Brush cabbage liberally but evenly with honey mixture. Broil 3-5 minutes, until browned and caramelized.
COOK-the-BOOK-FRIDAYS is an international cooking group making its way virtually through David Lebovitz’s MY PARIS KITCHEN. See our group’s efforts here.
The closest I’ve ever gotten to a food truck is watching the comedy-drama film, Chef, at our local theatre in 2014. Having just googled the “Top Ten Food Trucks near Aspen,” none of them are. Near Aspen, I mean.
SPICY MEATBALL WRAP SMOTHERED in SRIRACHA MAYONNAISE
Street foods, whether from a truck or cart, predominantly reflect local culture and flavor. Trucks namedThe Confluence Cowgirl Kitchen, Mi Lindo Nayarit and Slo Groovin’ Bar-b-Que based in Carbondale, Marble, even Glenwood Springs echo our diversity. But, in Aspen, if it’s street food I desire, only my kitchen can answer the call.
THIS MEATBALL PACKS a WALLOP AND IS JUST AS DELICIOUS SERVED INDIVIDUALLY DURING A COCKTAIL PARTY. (toothpick, please.)
Boulettes de Merguez à la Sauce Sriracha, a recipe from David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen pays homage to the Maghreb* influence in Parisian cuisine. Americanized, these are flavor-packed Spiced Meatballs with Sriracha Sauce. I chose to wrap them in a grilled Naan smothered in sauce and wrapped in parchment paper. Heavily seasoned, this is street food to the max. Grabbing a beer, I walked out to my balcony and polished off this glorious sandwich in a flash.
I made my meatballs and then put them in a cast iron skillet to roast in the oven. Every 5 minutes (15 minutes cooking time), just give the pan a shake.
A colleague recently made this recipe, 20 meatballs, leaving them on the counter to cool for a later cocktail party. She ran to her gym. Returning home, she found only 4. A certain male partner was nowhere in sight. They’re that fantastic. See the recipe and more tips below.
When is the last time you basked in a friend’s joy? Their happiness becomes yours. Last week I caught that feel-good bug when a dear friend became a first-time grandmother. She and her husband had raised three terrific young men. Still, at her house for the past 20-plus years, the score was always, 4-1.
When beautiful Madison arrived, her grandparents were over-the-moon.( I don’t think they’ve landed yet.) My challenge was how to welcome this precious baby. Realizing she is already an indulged child, not for want, here’s the gift I just mailed to Madison’s grandparents.
I asked my granddaughters as well as the 4-year old daughter of blogging colleague Katie, to send me their Top 10 list of favorite baby books. This request turned into a family affair with Melissa and Stephen revisiting their memory library with Emma and Clara. Katie and Marcel, Alaia’s parents, also took the familial recall stroll.
ALAIA, 4, with HER DADDY, MARCEL, WHILE VISITING ME IN CAMBRIA.
CLARA, 13, (L) and EMMA, 15, DURING the SUMMER.
Following their quick replies and meshing the lists together, I bought the books and mailed them to Florida, requesting that they always remain at the grandparents’ house in anticipation of baby Madison-visits.
“There are perhaps no days of our childhood we lived so fully as those we spent with a favorite book.” –Marcel Proust
THE LIST. (per Emma, Clara and Alaia.)
THE TOP 10 LIST: 1) Good Night Moon; 2) Good Night, Gorilla; 3) Good Dog, Carl; 4) Little Lady Bug: Finger Puppet Book; 5) But Not the Hippopotamus; 6) I Love You, Stinky Face; 7) Mama Mama, Papa Papa; 8) Time for Bed; 9) King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub; 10) The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
SPICED MEATBALLS with SRIRACHA MAYONNAISE from My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz
Makes 20 walnut-sized Meatballs (Tip: I made mine a bit larger.)
1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 tablespoons minced cilantro leaves
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 teaspoons harissa, Sriracha, or Asian chile paste (Tip: I used Sriracha, a staple in my kitchen.)
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt or kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (Tip: I used 1/2 teaspoon, maybe 3/4 teaspoon to soften the flavors of the tangy spices.)
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground sumac (optional) (Tip: Please don’t skip the sumac.)
1 pound ground beef or lamb (not lean), or a mix of the two (Tip: I used lamb, a more traditional taste.)
1. 3/4 cup mayonnaise, homemade or store bought
1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce or harissa (Be careful. This is hot.)
1. In a hot skillet, toast the fennel, coriander, and cumin seeds for a minute or so, until they smell fragrant.
2. Remove from the heat and let cool.Grind to a powder in a spice mill or mortar and pestle, or crush in a sturdy plastic bag with a hammer.
3. Combine the crushed spices in a bowl with the cilantro, garlic, paprika, harissa, salt, cinnamon, allspice, and sumac. Add the ground beef/lamb and mix well. The meatball mixture can be refrigerated for up to 3 days before rolling and using. (Tip: I wore disposable latex gloves and mixed together with my hands.)
4. Pinch off pieces of the sausage mixture and roll them into meatballs the size of unshelled walnuts or to your preferred size. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet, preferably nonstick, over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs and fry for 8 to 10 minutes, shaking the pan to cook them evenly. If you have a grill, they can be cooked over a fire. Or, they can be roasted on a greased baking sheet in a 350 degree F oven for 15 minutes. (Tip: To save calories, I roasted in the oven using a cast iron pan.)
LOVE THE SRIRACHA MAYO.
5. To make the Sriracha mayonnaise, combine the mayonnaise and the Sriracha in a small bowel. (This can also be made up to 3 days ahead and refrigerated).
6. Serve the meatballs warm with the Sriracha mayo.
* The Maghreb is the region of Algeria, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia.
CooktheBookFridays is an international virtual group of food bloggers cooking its way through My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz. To see what my colleagues cooked this week or to join our group, go here.
Where to begin. This is my last LIGHTSonBRIGHT postmarked from California. In mid-November I left Aspen, barely escaping the first snow flurries, knowing it would be springtime before my return. The left side of my brain, where my logic is warehoused, kept telling me this was a good thing. My heart, where most of my decisions are made, was shouting, “What have you done?”
David Lebovitz’s CROQUE MONSIEUR from My Paris Kitchen cookbook
In the past 5 1/2 months of this solitary journey I have motored through five states, joyously celebrated three major holidays, one VIP 50th birthday and settled into 3 different homes. Good fortune smiled broadly in December for a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Galapagos.
The Valley Vixens, my nature study group, flew to California for a long week-end of whales, wildflowers and birds. – with our guides at Chimney Rock, Point Reyes National Seashore
This solitude and being alone thing cuts both ways. My adventures and explorations throughout California from Point Reyes in the north to Los Angeles have been magical. I have fallen in love with this state and the people in it. (Caveat: Aspen and the Rockies are still #1.) I’ve relished my aloneness, Yin time to my Yang’s constant busyness of Aspen. Admittedly, it’s time for Yang.
My BETTER THAN THIS drop cookie
There will be many hours during my 1,000 mile trip back to Colorado, to revisit this journey, realize Life lessons learned, and re-think traveling more simply. Unfortunately, the drive also coincides with what would have been our 30th wedding anniversary. That day I plan to cut short my driving time, stop at a familiar hotel, enjoy a nice dinner with a glass or three of wine and remember the good times. Reservations already booked.
Load. Lock. Puree. This tapenade can be thrown together in 10 minutes.
MY PARIS KITCHEN: TAPENADE & the non-sexist CROQUE
I’m betting you’ll like this farewell post from Cambria. It’s Cook the Book Fridays when we feature recipes from David Lebovitz’s spectacular My Paris Kitchen. That man knows how to write a cookbook. Here’s my take on his Artichoke Tapenade with Rosemary Oil, a tasty quickie and multitasker. Try it also on pizza, stuffed in mushrooms or in a myriad of other ways suggested here. And, that Rosemary Oil? Do it.
The Rosemay Oil infusion is oh-so-simple to create and it is a classy touch to the tapenade.
Let’s be clear. The Croque-Monsieur, which America has bastardized into a fried ham and cheese sandwich, is sexist. Whenever this recipe is featured anywhere, we women end up in parentheses:(to make Croque-Madame, top it with a fried egg). I just can’t work with that. Instead, this week we’re making David’s absolutely delicious Croque-Madame. (If you’d rather make a Croque-Monsieur, hold the egg.)
No, artist Andy Goldsworthy isn’t hanging out on Moonstone Beach but visitors and locals alike create their own disposable twig art every week-end. Using debris that’s washed up on the beach, they spend their time creating habitats. And, then, we all sit together in them and enjoy the sunset. And, then, Boom, it’s washed away at high tide.
For David’s, first mix together his Béchamel which elegantly separates his version from the pack. Don’t be intimidated, Readers. It’s a white sauce, plain and simple. Now, start building the sandwich, layering the prosciutto or ham with Comté or Gruyère cheese. Then, butter. Not a good calorie-counting day. Serve this richness with a green salad/mustardy vinaigrette. I cannot express adequately how deliciously amazing this sandwich tastes.
Mmmmm. dark chocolate, dried cherries, toasted walnuts and oatmeal – what’s Better Than This?
We only post David’s recipes if they are already out there in cyberspace. Luckily these two are flying high so I’m reprinting them. I do encourage you, however, to buy this terrific book.
My friends travelled from Colorado to San Francisco for sunshine, warmth and to visit me. Is one out of three considered a Win?
The BETTER THAN THIS Cookie
The beloved Dorie Greenspan, our talented French Fridays with Dorie mentor, bakes World Peace cookies. Her test-tasting neighbor, Richard Gold, became convinced that ‘a daily dose of these cookies was all that is needed to ensure planetary peace and happiness.’ They are sublime. Blogger Chris Scheuer, who resides at Cafe Sucre & Farine, makes I Want to Marry You cookies, a chocolate chip delight reputed to inspire marriage proposals. These are two of the best cookies I’ve baked.
Pop into the ‘fridge for ten minutes before putting into a 375 degree oven.
However, I’m throwing down the gauntlet and suggesting to these ladies that my gem of a cookie can compete. I’m naming it the Better Than This cookie because no cookie you taste or bake now can be, you got it, Better Than This. Here’s the deal. Since returning to Aspen three years ago and setting up shop at The Gant, its young, professional staff has made me feel comfortable and safe. They’ve helped launch me into a happy albeit different Lifestyle. My gratefulness knows no bounds. Those kids have become willing LIGHTSonBRIGHT test-testers. Because I’ve been MIA the past many months, I’m afraid my tiara may have tarnished somewhat. Here’s betting this tasty jewel of dried cherries, dark chocolate, rolled oats and walnuts, will re-burnish my status and have them asking, “What can be better than this?”
I will miss these crazy noisy clowns called Acorn Woodpeckers who live nearby. If you ever spot a tall pole or tree riddled with hundreds of holes, each containing an acorn—it’s an amazing Woodpecker granary tree. Stop and take a look.
A Granary Tree – One tree can have up to 50,000 holes drilled by Acorn Woodpeckers, each filled with an acorn for winter forage. Imagine the effort involved.
When I see you next time, I’ll be happily shedding my road warrior skin and blogging from Colorado’s High Country. Big smiles all around.
CROQUE-MONSIEUR by David Lebovitz, My Paris Kitchen cookbook
Makes 2 Sandwiches
Béchamel Sauce ingredients
1 Tablespoon salted or unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon all purpose flour
3/4 Cup whole milk
Pinch of sea salt or kosher salt
Pinch of cayenne pepper
4 thin slices sourdough or country style bread, 1/4 to 3/8” thick
4 slices prosciutto or thinly sliced dry cured ham or 2 thick slices boiled ham
2 thin slices Comté or Gruyère cheese
4 Tablespoon salted or unsalted butter
1/4 Cup grated Comté or Gruyère cheese
1. Spread the Béchamel Sauce on the bread.
1. Béchamel Sauce: Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat and stir in the flour. When the mixture starts to bubble, stir and cook for 1 minute more. Whisk in 1/4 cup of the milk, stirring to discourage lumps. Whisk in the remaining 1/2 cup of milk. Cook for about 1 minute more, until the sauce is thick and creamy, like runny mayonnaise. Remove from the heat, stir in a pinch of salt and cayenne and set aside to cool a bit and thicken.
2. Place meat of choice on one slice.
2. Spread the Béchamel evenly over the four slices of bread. Lay a slice of meat over two of the bread slices, top them with slices of cheese and then top with the remaining ham slices. Close the sandwich with the two remaining slices of bread, Béchamel side down (on the inside). Brush the outsides of the sandwiches without restraint with the melted butter. (TIP: My choice, Prosciutto and Gruyère).
3. Top with cheese of choice and then add more meat.
3. Turn on the broiler and heat a large ovenproof frying pan or grill pan over medium heat on the stove top. (Make sure to use a pan with a heatproof handle for broiling later.) Place the sandwiches in the frying pan, drape with a sheet of aluminum foil and then rest a cast iron skillet or other heavy pan or flat object on top. Cook until the bottoms of the sandwiches are well browned. Remove the skillet and foil, flip the sandwiches over, replace the foil and skillet and continue cooking until the other side is browned. (TIP: I used a grill pan and browned for 2 minutes on EACH side.)
4. Close sandwich. Slather each side with melted butter. Now is not the time to begin worrying about calories.
4. When browning the sandwiches, place a piece of tinfoil and heavy object on top to weigh them down.
4. Remove the cast-iron skillet and foil and scatter the grated cheese on top of the sandwiches. Put the pan under the broiler and broil the sandwiches until the cheese melts. Serve immediately.
7. Scatter grated cheese on top and pop in the over to broil.
ARTICHOKE TAPENADE with ROSEMARY OIL by David Leibovitz, My Paris Kitchen cookbook
Because I was using up my opened items before leaving Cambria, I used green olives with pimentos. It was pretty and tasty but David recommends the real deal, fresh green olives.
Serves 6 to 8.
One 14-ounce) can artichoke hearts (2 Cups), drained and quartered
1/2 Cup pitted green olives
1/3 Cup olive oil
1 Tablespoon capers, rinsed, squeezed dry, and chopped
1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/8 Teaspoon cayenne pepper
Rosemary Oil Ingredients (Makes 1/2 Cup)
1/2 Cup olive oil
Generous pinch of sea salt or kosher salt
1/2 Cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/3 Cup rosemary leaves
Toasted sliced baguette or crackers, to serve
1. Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Have a bowl of ice water ready. Heat the oil and salt in another small saucepan until warm but not boiling. Remove from the heat and set aside. Add the herbs to the boiling water and cook for 10 seconds before draining and putting the herbs in the ice water.
2. When the herbs are cool, lift them out with your hand and press them in a paper towel until very, very dry. Add them to the oil. Let the herbs infuse for 15 minutes.
3. Blend the herbs and oil in a mini-chopper or food processor for 30 seconds. Strain the oil through a fine-mesh strainer. There will be a few bits of greenery in the oil. The rosemary oil can be kept for a few days at room temperature in a closed container, or for up to 1 month in the refrigerator. Bring it to room temperature before using.
1. In the bowl of a food processor, purée the artichokes, olives, olive oil, capers, lemon juice, garlic, and cayenne pepper until smooth. Taste, and season with a bit of salt if necessary.
2. Serve drizzled with a liberal amount of rosemary oil, along with toasted slices of baguette or crackers for dipping. The tapenade will keep for up to 4 days in the refrigerator.
The BETTER THAN THIS cookie adapted from THE KITCHN COOKBOOK by Sara Kate Gillingham and Faith Durand
Note to High Altitude Bakers: When I return to Colorado, I will adjust these cookies to altitude and post the resulting recipe.
Makes 4 dozen cookies
1 3/4 Cups unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted
3/4 Cup dark brown sugar, packed
3/4 Cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 extra-large eggs, room temperature
1 Teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
1 Teaspoon baking soda
1 Teaspoon salt
1/2 Teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 Cup old-fashioned rolled oats
3/4 Cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
1 Cup dried cherries
8 Ounces (two bars) dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
Flaked sea salt (optional, I use the Maldon brand)
1. Preheat oven to 375°F
2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or nonstick baking liner. Pour the walnuts onto the baking sheet and toast until browned about 10 minutes, turning once. Cool slightly and then chop coarsely. Cool completely before using them.
3. Cover the cherries with 1 cup boiling water and let stand for 10 minutes to plump up. Drain and thoroughly pat dry. Chop the chocolate into small pieces.
4. In a large mixing bowl with the paddle beater, mix together the sugars with the softened butter until completely blended. Add the eggs, one at a time to form a smooth batter. Mix in the vanilla, salt, baking soda and cinnamon.
5. Add the flour all at once and stir the batter gently by hand until the ingredients are well-combined. Fold in by hand the rolled oats, cherries, and chocolate until all the ingredients are combined.
6. Using a medium cookie scoop or mounded 1 1/2 inch tablespoon of mixture, space the dough on the cookie sheet 1 to 2 inches apart. Put each tray in the refrigerator for ten minutes before baking the cookies. Then bake, rotating the tray once, until the craggy tips and edges just start to darken, 10 – 12 minutes. DO NOT OVERBAKE
7. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack. After completely cool, these cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for 1 week. These cookies freeze well.
TIP: When baking, use exact measurements. No eyeballing anything. With all drop cookies, I use an Oxo cookie scoop.
Cook The Book Fridays is an international group cooking its way virtually through David Lebovitz’s newest cookbook. To visit our link or join us, go here.
Gotta be honest. I’ve not a smidgen of blood – red cells, white cells, platelets, or plasma – that runs Irish. I’m pretty sure David Lebovitz, an American living in Paris and author of My Paris Kitchen, is not Irish either. This week, however, CookTheBookFridays, our international crew cooking its way through his new cookbook, salutes our Emerald Isle brethren with his Carbonade Flamande, a hearty Belgian Beef Stew with Beer and Spice Bread.
BELGIAN BEEF STEW with BEER and SPICE BREAD
Although it may border on blasphemy to tout a Belgian stew today, David’s recipe is unique and worthy of this holiday. His Pain d’Épices, a delicious addition, is addictive. Following a LightsonBright tradition, I’m sharing my 2016 version of Irish Soda Bread. No crumbs remain.
PAIN d’ÉPICES, Honey-Spice Bread
I’m a woman of few words today. My post is simply a photo flurry. Go green, be joyous, everybody’s Irish today. Can’t we all agree on that? Let’s have some fun. You deserve it.
A FOGGY DAY on the CENTRAL COAST of CALIFORNIA
David describes Carbonade Flamande (his Belgian Beef Stew with Beer and Spice Bread) as a ‘well-seasoned beef dish’ with its main ingredients being ‘beer, beef, spice and bacon.’ This stew is unlike any I’ve ever tasted due to the addition of beer, of course, but alsoPain d’Épices slathered with Dijon mustard.
Every great stew needs onions in abundance. Peel. Slice. Dice.
After first browning the beef chunks, followed by adding onions and bacon to soften and cook, transfer the mixture to a bowl.
After adding beer, water and spices, the meat mixture is returned to the Dutch oven, spices are added and it’s left to simmer for an hour.
After a meal of Carbonade Flamande served with mashed potatoes. rice or pasta, it may be naptime.
Mr. California Sea Otter
The headliner of this stew, for me, is the classic Pain d’Épices, a chewy, dense honey-spice bread (or, cake). For taste purposes, it’s a cousin to gingerbread. This recipe, at the end of the post, earned the #1 berth on my new hostess gift list. One batter batch makes two 8” x 3 3/4” loaves.
Get to know this exquisite Pain d’Epices. Try toast, making croutons, using spreads like cream cheese or jams or serving with ice cream. The French serve it with Foie Gras. An acquired taste, perhaps.
It’s a joy to spot the threatened Snowy Plover during breeding season. Although their numbers are depleted (These pictures demonstrate Why.), the state of Cali ropes off beach nesting areas to protect these little guys. (We bird lovers thank you, California.)
The Snowy Plover sits on her nest.
Even though I was quite a distance from the plovers, they did not like me and left their nests. I quickly left and they returned to duty.
Every year I choose a different Irish Soda bread recipe to bake for SPDay. This March I revisited a decade-old recipe of the Barefoot Contessa’s. Don’t forget to slash an X into the dough to either 1) ward off the devil; 2) bless the bread; or 3) let heat penetrate into the thickest part of the bread. Your choice.
Irish Soda Bread dough
Last year I borrowed Sweet Paul’s recipe, totally different from Ina’s but delectable as well. You’ll find his recipe here.
Sweet Paul’s Irish Soda Bread (2015 photo)
Shamrocks (thank you, Trader Joe’s) and Seaglass, Shells and Moonstones collected from the public beaches.
PAIN d’EPICES (Honey-Spice Bread) from My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz
3/4 cup honey
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon whole or ground anise seed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch loaf pan and line the bottom with a sheet of parchment paper.
2. Heat the honey, brown sugar, water, and salt in a saucepan until it begins to boil. Decrease the heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in 1 cup of the all-purpose flour. Let cool to room temperature.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together the remaining 1/3 cup all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, anise, cinnamon, allspice, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves.
4. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and egg yolk.
5. Stir half the honey mixture into the dry ingredients. Add the eggs, then the rest of the honey mixture, stirring until smooth. (If any bits of flour remain, whisk the batter briefly to break them up and incorporate them.)
6. Scrape the mixture into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool for 20 minutes, loosen the sides of the cake from the pan with a knife, then tip the cake out onto a wire cooling rack and cool completely. If possible, wait a day before slicing. Pain d’Epices will keep for at least 1 week at room temperature, if well wrapped. It can also be frozen for up to 2 months.
David Lebovitz also has an excellent post on Pain d’Epices here.
IRISH SODA BREAD From Barefoot Contessa at Home, by Ina Garten, 2006.
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for currants
4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 3/4 cups cold buttermilk, shaken
1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 cup dried currants
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
2. Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the butter and mix on low speed until the butter is mixed into the flour.
3. With a fork, lightly beat the buttermilk, egg, and orange zest together in a measuring cup. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture. Combine the currants with 1 tablespoon of flour and mix into the dough. It will be very wet.
4. Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and knead it a few times into a round loaf. Place the loaf on the prepared sheet pan and lightly cut an X into the top of the bread with a serrated knife. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. When you tap the loaf, it will have a hollow sound.
5. Cool on a baking rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.
TIP: I never use grated orange zest when baking this bread. I sometimes add a teaspoon of caraway seeds. Since I could not find currants, I used raisins but prefer currants.
Our group can only reprint My Paris Kitchen’s recipe if they are already on the Web. If you wish the stew recipe, please e-mail me. Cook The Book Fridays is an international group cooking its way virtually through David Lebovitz’s newest cookbook. To visit our link or join us, go here.
Cook-the-Book Fridays – Steak with Mustard Butter & French Fries
When our first grandchild was a year old, she and her parents visited us in Aspen. While Melissa and Stephen probably saw this as a vacation and relief from 24/7 parenting, I viewed their visit as an opportunity to introduce sweet Emma to our friends. I planned a party. To be truthful, I planned two parties, back-to-back, inviting forty guests to each.
Just the thought of that is now cringe-worthy.
Hummingbird Cake, a traditional southern classic
Last week-end Melissa’s family came to Cambria to celebrate her 50th birthday, a definite make whoopee moment. The Central California coast is wine country, offering memorable dining experiences. To honor this special birthday, I envisioned an elegant evening at her favorite local restaurant with my additional make whoopee add-ons.
Readers, you know where I’m going with this, don’t you?
“No, Mom,” she said, quietly. “I want filets, roasted potatoes, green beans and salad. At home.”
This is what 50 looks like: two teenagers, two businesses, and two Mothers to watch over. Like most of the Sandwich Generation, too little vacation and relaxation time.
All sorts of Buts in response to her request danced in my brain. This is a cottage not equipped for a party. The oven has only one rack. I don’t have fine china, champagne flutes or sterling silver nor a tablecloth and matching napkins. No ice cube maker. Small fridge. Could I even cobble together a matching set of dinnerware for 5? Yes, I answered myself, I’ve learned to grow where I’m planted. I can make this happen.
Luckily her birthday coincided with our bimonthly journey through David Lebovitz’s “My Paris Kitchen”. This week’s recipe choice, Steak with Mustard Butter and French Fries, would be good prep for the requested meal.(The recipe is below.)
French Fries, baked, not fried. Authentic in taste with less calories. Peel Russet potatoes leaving some additional skin (which is fun to do).
Nothing says bistro classic like entrecôte (rib-eye) and pommes frites (french fries). That I could pull this together in my kitchen needing only a cast-iron grill pan purchased at Cambria Hardware and a grocery market cookie sheet seems amazing.
After cutting potatoes into 1/3 inch slices, cut each slice into 1/3-inch wide strips.
A flavor-packed, top-of-the-stove steak in the winter or if you have no outdoor grill, seals my bond with David. His french fries are baked in the oven but taste like the real deal. Magical. Not traveling in France this year? Open a bottle of good red wine, toss a warm baguette on the table with this classic duo à la Lebovitz and pretend.
Put the potato strips on a cookie sheet and mix with olive oil, kosher salt, rosemary and thyme. The oven and high heat make bonafide french fries
It took two barnstorming trips through Michael’s craft store and Target for me to crank into party mode. After settling on a pink plastic tablecloth and big silver tinsel birthday banner, the decor started to pull, Gulp!Gulp!, together.
I bought 50 roses but had no container. Scrounging around the garage, I discovered a huge fish bowl, hosed it down, scrubbed it mightily and, voila, perfect. The champagne would need ice and a bucket. Three bags of ice solved one problem and a huge popcorn bowl hidden on a top cabinet shelf, another. The light over the table was unreliable, it blinked. God bless duct tape. The filets fit beautifully in my newly purchased grill pan. Since the one-rack oven was engaged, I created roasted potatoes in my slow cooker. The dinnerware didn’t match. We re-washed some forks.
Yep, it’s a fishbowl.
The birthday cake. Since Melissa was born in Tallahassee I baked the classic southern Hummingbird Cake (recipe is below). Because they now live in the Eastern Sierras, the white frosting replicated those mountains. Admittedly, it took several guesses and clues for them to figure out that frosting/mountain thing.
After buying 3 bags of ice, I was able to keep the champagne very comfy in its popcorn bowl container.
My family has returned to Bishop. The birthday, well celebrated. The decorations, however, are still hanging, the pink plastic cloth, still in place. Whatever the reason, all this silly stuff seems good company and makes me happy. I can’t think of one reason to take it down.
While this was not the birthday celebration her Mother envisioned, it was the one Melissa wanted.
STEAK with MUSTARD BUTTER by David Lebovitz, My Paris Kitchen
I grilled this steak on high heat for a total of 7 minutes for a delicious Rare to Medium Rare.
Two 8-ounce rib-eye steaks
1/2 teaspoon hickory-smoked salt, sea salt, or Kosher salt
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoons chipotle chile powder
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh cilantro or flat-leaf parsley
Freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable oil or clarified butter
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons dry mustard powder
1 generous teaspoon Dijon mustard
1. Pat the steaks dry and rub them with the salt, chipotle powder, and cilantro or parsley. Refrigerate the steaks, uncovered, for at least 1 hour, or up to 8 hours.
2. To make the mustard butter, mash together the butter with the mustard powder and the Dijon. Form it into two mounds and chill on a plastic wrap–lined plate.
3. Heat a little oil or clarified butter in a grill pan or cast-iron skillet and cook the steaks over high heat, being sure to get a good sear on each side. For rare steaks, cook 5 to 7 minutes total on both sides, or aller-retour (“to go and return”).
4. Remove the steaks from the pan and put on plates. Top each steak with a knob of the mustard butter and some ground black pepper and serve with a big pile of frites.
Author Notes: To make this bistro classic in my kitchen, I use a cast-iron skillet or grill pan that I get really hot, and then I sear the steak on both sides. David Lebovitz
NOTE: We cannot publish David’s recipes unless they are already on the Internet. If you want the recipe for Pommes Frites, find it on page 219 of My Paris Kitchen or e-mail me.
HUMMINGBIRD CAKE,Southern Living Magazine
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 3/4 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 4 large)
1 (8-oz.) can crushed pineapple (do not drain)
3/4 cup canola oil
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Bake chopped pecans in a single layer in a shallow pan 8 to 10 minutes or until toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through.
2. Stir together flour and next 4 ingredients in a large bowl.
3. Mix in 3 lightly beaten eggs and next 4 ingredients, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened.
4. Sprinkle 1 cup toasted pecans into a greased and floured 14-cup Bundt pan. Pour or spoon batter carefully over pecans.
5. Bake at 350° for 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes or until a long wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.
6. Cool cake in pan on a wire rack 15 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack, and cool completely (about 2 hours).
7. Prepare Glaze: Process cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla, and 1 Tbsp. milk in a food processor until well blended. Add remaining 1 Tbsp. milk, 1 tsp. at a time, processing until smooth. Immediately pour glaze over cooled cake, and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup toasted pecans.
TIP: I used a 10-cup bundt pan and filled it 2/3 full. With the remaining batter, I baked muffins.
COOK-the-BOOK FRIDAYS is an international, on-line group cooking its way through David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen. To see what we’re cooking or to join the group, go here.