Wednesday, September 30, 2009

John and Lynne

This weekend we went to Virginia to visit two of our favorite people - John and Lynne. We had the good fortune of sitting next to this amazing couple on the plane on our way to St. John in July. They weren't even supposed to be on our flight, and we changed our seats at the last minute. Coincidence? I don't think so.

John and Lynne were on their way to St. Thomas to celebrate their 14th wedding anniversary, and we were on what has become our annual pilgrimage to St. John. They invited us to join them for a special meal at the Lime Inn and we made plans to have some adventures together during the week. One day they picked us up in their rental boat, the Awesome, and we headed to Jost Van Dyke. The Wine Guy and I had been trying to get there for years, but the charter services are prohibitively expensive and the ferry leaves at the crack of dawn. Now it would be tough to imagine a Caribbean vacation without a Foxy's grouper sandwich or the swim to the Soggy Dollar. We made great memories at our favorite villa, Drake's Lookout, enjoyed burgers at Skinny Legs, and had lobster rolls and "Drink Right, Keep Left" drinks at the Tourist Trap. We all share a love for the reef and its inhabitants, so some of the best moments involved sea turtles and sting rays and other beautiful swimmers. They even hold hands while they are snorkeling like we do!

Getting to know John and Lynne has renewed my spirit. They are the kind of people whom you proudly call family, whether you are related to them or not. When we're together, we laugh good belly laughs and dream about the possibilities that the future holds. Yes, we've had to overlook the fact that they are Redskins fans. But they have a tricked-out Tiki bar in their yard and that is a good indicator of their idea of a good time. It's a little structure John built himself, which isn't surprising once you know that basically he can build/do anything. It's filled with cool stuff from their travels, like the Soggy Dollar ring toss game. And it's where John makes his famous Green Drink, which I'm sure he intends to name after the Eagles once they are Super Bowl Champions.

Right now, Lynne is busy beating cancer for the second time. When we met her, she was facing a couple of grueling rounds of chemo, but you never would have guessed it from her demeanor. In the next few weeks, she will be receiving her own stem cells for treatment as she goes for the cure. She's got the mind of a detective and quite possibly the most generous, gentle spirit I have ever met.

Lynne doesn't know how brave she is, which is probably a blessing or she'd be rappelling off the side of the Tiki bar. I feel like she's the sister I always knew I had out there somewhere, and I'm so glad I finally found her.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

TWD: A Bye Week

This week Carla of Chocolate Moosey chose Chocolate Crunched Caramel tart for the group. It's a gorgeous dessert, one I plan to make for a special occasion. Since we were enjoying a weekend getaway, I didn't participate this week. Visit Carla's blog for a full report and the recipe!

I'll be back with the Dorie bakers on October 13 for the Allspice Crumb Muffins. In fact, I'm placing my order with Penzey's right now!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

TWD - Cottage Cheese Pufflets

This week's recipe was a real challenge. The pastry, which is made with butter, cottage cheese, and just a touch of sugar, is tender and tangy. It's the perfect counterpoint to its filling, a dab of sweet preserves. Like most things in life, it was worth the effort.

As the week unfolded, the chatter on the Tuesdays with Dorie site revolved around the various difficulties members were having with the dough. Undaunted by the warnings of brave bakers that ventured ahead of me, I opened the dough and began to roll like someone formally trained in the art of the pastry. Wow - it was the stickiest dough ever! I took the advice of one blogger who, when even waxed paper failed her, suggested using plastic wrap to prevent it from sticking to the rolling pin and countertop. Well, it worked, but not without a lot of coaxing, refrigerating, and even freezing. I wasn't able to roll it as thinly as the recipe indicates - a scant 1/8"- but the finished product was still a success. And I think using the pastry cutter made them really pretty. My trusted taster, gg, proclaimed them "amazing" and that's enough for me!

When I finish with the dough tonight, I'm going to make the squares a bit bigger to increase the jam to pastry ratio. I'm filling them with strawberry preserves with Grand Marnier mixed with a little blueberry all fruit. I really love that this recipe, like last week's apple turnovers, can be shaped and frozen for baking at a later date.

Thanks to Jacque of Daisy Lane Cakes for moving cottage cheese from lunch to dessert! Check out her site for the recipe, as well as her adventures in baking.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Congratulations Smitten Kitchen!
This week, one of the assignments in my 11th grade English class was for students to research the etymology of their names and present their findings to the class. Imagine my surprise when a young man stood up and presented this iconic image as his baby picture!

Well, that was not the only notable baby event this week. Deb and Alex of smitten kitchen welcomed sweet-enough-to-eat Jacob Henry on the 17th. If you'd like to see their latest confection (all 7 pounds of him!), or to find a good recipe for just about anything with thoughtful, step by step advice and gorgeous photos, check out their site. We love the blueberry crumb bar recipe they adapted from

And if you'd just like to see an adorable baby, head right over there.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

TWD - Apple Turnovers

This week's recipe was a fun way to make my Tuesdays with Dorie debut. Although I've made many pies, turnovers had not yet made their way into my baking repertoire. Well, I think they are here to stay!

This recipe is perfect if you are busy because it can be prepared in stages. The dough is made with the usual ingredients, with the lovely addition of sour cream. I prefer unsalted cultured butter for all of my baking, although it's a bit pricey. Ok, it's outrageously priced, but worth it.

After the initial preparation, the dough is refrigerated for up to 2 days. Then, after it is worked and shaped, it can be chilled for another day. It's really pliable and easy to handle.

Finally, Sunday was the big day. I added some chopped walnuts to the apple cinnamon filling and omitted the chunks of butter that were supposed to be inside. There were already 3 sticks of butter involved, so I thought we'd be ok. I think I overworked the dough a little bit, judging from the photos on my fellow bakers' blogs, but those little envelopes of goodness were delightful with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. And I have an unbaked bunch in the freezer ready for an unexpected dessert emergency.

Thank you Jules from Someone's in the Kitchen for choosing such a delicious, seasonal recipe! Check out her blog for the recipe.

I'd like to take a big basket of these to Jeff Garcia to welcome him back!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Chénas: The New Vintage

As summer reverie gives way to the responsibilities of fall, I'm sorry we haven't spent more time in our yard. It was especially pretty this year, as the perennials grew taller and lusher than ever before. This is such a lovely time of the year, and although the plants aren't in their prime anymore, the evenings are cool and the air smells so good. The mosquitoes seem a little slower in their attacks, too. It's tough to let such a great summer go, but it will be nice to sit outside in sweatshirts and reminisce about our time on St. John.

Tonight at our picnic table, we enjoyed the new vintage of Trichard Chénas with marinated grilled chicken thighs, jasmine rice, and chopped cherry tomato insalada caprese. To use a highly technical expression often employed by the Moore Brothers cast and crew, this wine rocks. It has been one of our house favorites for many years, and this vintage is particularly delicious. Once the back doors are closed up for the season, it will be perfect with roast chicken and watercress salad.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Tuesdays with Dorie
In what undoubtedly will be remembered as my most desperate back to school coping strategy, I have joined the Tuesdays with Dorie bakers.

This could be trouble.

It all began in January 2007 when Laurie of Quirky Cupcake received Dorie Greenspan's classic baking book, "Baking, From My Home to Yours" for Christmas. The rest is baking (and probably Weight Watchers) history. Today, approximately 250 blogging bakers are working their way through the book at a pace of one recipe a week. This week, I became one of them.

Oh boy.

I've been a Dorie Greenspan fan for a long time. I adore her Corniest Corn Muffin recipe, and just this weekend I made World Peace Cookies and Chunky Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Chipsters to take to a lovely Labor Day cookout hosted by our friends Pat and Sue. On the savory side, nothing beats her Sea Scallops and Beet and Tomato Salsa, especially if you belonged to our CSA this year and had to be creative with beets. I mean a lot of beets.

I have been hinting about the book for months, but the wine guy prefers to give little blue boxes. Finally I broke down and got it myself with a 40% off Borders coupon. I like a little bargain with my butter.

One of the rules, and let me add that I LOVE that there are rules, is that participants have to post about the week's confection on Tuesday. Since I'm going for "proficient" and not "advanced" in this endeavor, I won't be baking every week. But check on Tuesdays to see my progress!

So this year, September brings a new crop of students along with Apple Turnovers and Cottage Cheese Pufflets. Ahhh, the hope and expectation of a new beginning.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Sheila Lukins

With last week's passing of Sheila Lukins, the world lost one of its original foodies. She had been diagnosed with brain cancer just 3 months ago.

Best known as one of the owners of the Silver Palate food shop in Manhattan, Ms. Lukins was an author of the cookbooks bearing the shop's name, as well as “The New Basics Cookbook” and “All Around the World Cookbook.” In all, her books have sold more than seven million copies.

In our home, she was the reason to extricate Parade Magazine, a publication not known for its literary merits, from the recycling bin. She served as food editor for Parade since 1986.

Ms. Lukins was one of my mentors in the kitchen. I never had the pleasure of meeting her, but I looked forward to reading her articles and recipes in Parade when they made their monthly appearance. One of the first meals I made for John - a pasta dish with tomatoes, brie (!), and basil - came from "The Silver Palate Cookbook." I didn't own the book at the time, and I recall scribbling the ingredients on a piece of notebook paper as she cooked the dish on TV.

Hundreds of lamb chops and far scarier cuts of meat later, this remains my "go to" lamb recipe. I've committed it to memory, but revisited the dog-eared paper copy in my files to ensure accuracy.

Thanks, Sheila.

Lamb Chops
from Parade Magazine, February 21, 1999

1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
8 rib lamb chops, cut 1 1/2 inches thick

Combine the first 6 ingredients in a bowl. Add the chops; toss well. Let sit for at least an hour.

Grill the chops over medium-hot heat, brushing with marinade, 3-4 minutes per side for medium rare. Or cover a baking sheet with foil and broil chops on a rack 4 minutes per side. Allow to rest before serving.