Musing with Max

Musing with Max

September 25, 2011

The Last Days of Summer-Food Edition

I promised there would be more. And of course it has to be about food; or what to do with all those vegetables from the farmer's market (parking lot) because, let's face it, after a certain date corn just seems completely out of place and there's just so much corn on the cob one can have...or maybe not.

Stuffed Poblano Peppers

2 poblano peppers
fresh corn shucked from two ears
1 15 oz. can of black beans
1 red or yellow pepper chopped
2 scallions onions chopped
salt & pepper to taste
cumin to taste
cheese- whatever melts well- I've used mozzarella, Monterrey Jack, goat, feta...

Char the poblano peppers on a burner, grill or in the broiler until the skins are black. Place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap until peppers cool. Once cool remove the charred skins (don't wash them off no matter how tempting since it removes the flavor), slice on one side but not all the way through and remove the ribs and seeds.
Meanwhile, make the stuffing. In a large bowl combine the corn, beans, scallions and seasonings. Stir to blend well.
Preheat oven to 375F. Spoon the filling into the peppers and place in a baking dish. Cut cheese in chunks and scatter over filling. Bake for 15 or 20 minutes, until warmed through and cheese has melted some.

Okra, Corn, and Tomato Stew adapted from Mark Bittman

4 servings

2 tbsp canola or neutral oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 red or yellow pepper, stemmed, seeded & chopped
Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
3 ripe tomatoes, cored, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 cup okra, trimmed and cut into small pieces (I use frozen okra)
1 tbsp chili powder, or to taste
2 cups of freshly scraped corn kernels (4 ears)
Minced cilantro or fresh parsley leaves for garnish

Place a large, deep skillet or casserole over medium heat. Add the oil, 1 minute later, the onion and pepper. Sprinkle with salt & pepper and cook stirring occasionally, until the pepper is fairly tender, about 10 minutes.
Add the tomato, okra and chili powder, turn the heat to low, and stir. Cover and cook, stirring once or twice for about 10 minutes, or until the okra is tender.
Uncover and stir in the corn. If the mixture is very liquid, raise the heat to medium and cook with the cover off for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. If the mixture is fairly dry, cover and cook over low heat for 5 minutes. Garnish & serve.

Caponata adapted from The New Basics Cookbook

2 cups cubed peeled eggplant

1 tsp coarse salt
4 tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
3/4 cup chopped celery
2 cups drained canned plum tomatoes, chopped (I use fresh tomatoes in Summer)
1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/2 cup chopped pitted Calamata or Gaeta olives
2 tbsp capers, drained

1. Place the eggplant in a colander, sprinkle with coarse salt and drain for 1 hour.
2. Heat 2 tbsp of the olive oil in a large casserole or dutch oven. Pat the eggplant dry with paper towels and add it to the casserole. Saute over medium heat until soft and lightly browned, 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the eggplant and set it aside. Add the remaining oil, then the onion, bell peppers, and celery. Saute over medium heat until the vegetables are softened, 10 minutes. Return the eggplant to the casserole.
3. Add the tomatoes, pepper, oregano, basil, garlic, parsley, olives, and capers. Simmer until the vegetables are tender, 45 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature. Makes 4 cups.

This has become a staple in our household, it's a great condiment for Sunday morning eggs, and yes I know it can be made all year. And it will.
Max is a little bored by all of this; he'd much rather I talk about grilling

OK, maybe next time.

September 24, 2011

The last days of Summer

Yesterday was the official last day of Summer and I must admit I feel sad. I somehow don't want to let it go, which is usually not the case. Not that I hate it or anything, haw can you? but one of the reasons I love living where I do is because we actually have four seasons..count them 4. I grew up in Miami, Florida, yep 1 hot hot, summer, summer, summer. This may sound like heaven but frankly I found it just plain boring. First of all, there was no Fall. I was born in October, a Fall child; also on Wednesday which according to the poem makes me full of woe, ugh! Anyway, when I was a teenager and read teenage fashion magazines the September issues always had back to school clothes and that meant Fally jackets and hats and sweaters and gloves and scarves and beautiful oranges, reds and yellows on the leaves which I could only imagine since the temperature was usually hovering somewhere in the high 80's with humidity to match and the impatiens were just being put into the ground. Ass backwards. At Christmas I always put on a sweater, usuall red, and even a knit hat on ocassion...and then I went outside...end of that fashion statement. So when we moved to New Jersey I was more than thrilled to say goodbye to Summer as a year round state of being. And usually when one season starts to fade and the other moves in I've found it exciting,  life moving on. This year is a little different, moving on is not such a great thing so I'm having a hard time letting go of Summer and this:

September 20, 2011

The Farmer in the parking lot

I have a huge admiration for farmers, after all it is because of their toiling away in the dirt and such that we have a lot of our food. The other part is also due to farmers; poultry, cattle ranching, pig farming, etc. I dream of having a farm and living off the land out in the country with lots of land and acreage and all kinds of lovely vegetables and a chicken coop and all that Disney stuff. Clearly this is a fairy tale dream without the crown and the castle because there is the toiling part which doesn't show up much; I usually envision me skipping through the rows of vegetables with a basket wearing a straw hat and there's a lovely breeze and sunflowers swaying as I pick my beautiful vegetables to bring back to my beautiful farmhouse and make lovely meals so we can sit on rocking chairs in the porch afterwards and count the endless amounts of stars in the clear night sky; in this vision I can actually make out the big dipper which I have never been able to do and frankly doubt all those people who say: "Hey look, there's the Big Dipper" but since I can't see it I always nod in agreement and look impressed. This is obviously quite the little fantasy but that doesn't stop me from getting really really excited when Summer starts and the farmer's markets start to pop up everywhere; and I mean everywhere. Apparently there's a lot of people with my same dream who made it come true cause there sure are a lot of them. We have one in our little town of South Orange but since we don't have a heck of a lot of room to spare, ours is in the parking lot across from the train station (which Frank thinks is disgusting since we don't have a heck of a lot of parking spaces to spare but that's a whole other discussion). It's not much really, our little farmer's market. I think we have a grand total of 6 stands. Paltry, I know but it is what it is and I love it cause I can get this
and this

and this
and this

Problem is I tend to get a little carried away so I buy a tad too much and then have to scramble to make stuff like:

Fried zucchini
dredge slices zucchini in seasoned flour, dip in milk and then in breadcrumbs, fry in hot oil until golden

Corn fritters

Remove corn from the cob, add one egg, flour and seasoning. Mix until mixture stays together; if you need more liquid add a little milk. Heat about one inch of oil in a saucepan. Scoop fritters with a large spoon and place in hot oil, fry until golden, drain on paper towels.
Zucchini & tomato casserole

Saute slices of zucchini and green tomato and onions in a lightly oiled pan

Place in layers in a casserole, seasoning each layer with salt & pepper

 bake in a 350 oven for about 30 minutes.

Max is very bored with this whole farmer's market thing

so we'll continue another day...after all they're here until October!!!

September 16, 2011

And then he was 5...

Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday dearest Max
Happy Birthday to you! And many many many many many many many more!

September 14, 2011

If it's Tuesday it must be Pasta

Well actually, it's not Tuesday, that was yesterday. But it was pasta. When I was working full time (at a job outside the home that I commuted to on a daily basis, not what I have now which is looking for a job and believe me that is as full time as it gets, anyway I digress) I normally got home somewhere between 6:00 & 6:30 PM and I cooked dinner every single night; not because I had to but because I wanted to. It should be quite clear by now to the vast audience that follows this blog that I love to cook. It's creative, cathartic, therapeutic and a whole bunch of other great things that I can't think of right now. It also keeps my husband happy and he brags to all his friends as to how his wife cooks every night which is a nice notch on my lipstick case since most of theirs don't. Now having said all of that there are times, whether I'm working or not, where I don't really feel like cooking and going out is not an option; and that's where pasta can come in very handy. There are endless ways of cooking pasta with very few ingredients and not a lot of time or effort and I've got a few of those up my sleeve and as ridiculous as this may sound: I've decided on a new feature for my blog for Tuesday pasta dishes. OK, do I make quickie pasta every Tuesday, no, it used to be every Thursday and it normally consisted of tortellini with pesto but who's bothering with technicalities when a tradition is born. So without further ado, or endless drivel, here is:

Pasta Tuesdays
Fettuccine with Roquefort, Lemon Zest & Rosemary
adapted from Patricia Wells

3 tbsp butter, at room temp
3 tbsp Roquefort cheese, at room temp
3 tbsp sea salt
1 lb. fresh or dried fettuccine
About 1 cup of pasta cooking water
Freshly grated nutmeg t taste
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 tbsp minced fresh rosemary
Freshly grated black pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to lowest possible setting, 200F and place a large heatproof bowl in oven to warm.
2. In a small bowl, mash the butter and cheese until blended, set aside.
3. In a large pot bring 6 qts of water to a boil. Add salt and the pasta, cook until tender. Drain the pasta, leaving a few drops of water clinging to it so the sauce will adhere. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water.
4. Place the pasta in the warmed bowl and add the butter-cheese mixture, toss until the pasta absorbs the mixture. Slowly add the cooking water, one tablespoon at a time until the water is absorbed (this will thicken the sauce). Season generously with nutmeg and toss with lemon zest and rosemary.

Season generously with pepper, toss once more and serve.

Serves 4 to six, if you're lucky.

So there we are, our first Pasta Tuesday (on Wednesday).

Max would like to start his own tradition and he'll let me know what that is once he's done napping.

September 7, 2011

That's Amore

Frank fancies himself a pizza connoisseur. Well, maybe not exactly a connoisseur but he sure is picky. When he worked down on Wall Street he thought nothing of walking across the Brooklyn Bridge at lunchtime so he (and others) could stand in line outside Grimaldi's for hours so they could sit there and order several (yes, several) pies of the world's best pizza. I always thought they should have walked back after the several pies, just sayin'. He was crushed when the office was moved to Jersey City and they couldn't make their weekly pilgrimage; not that they didn't make the trek on occasion, but still...He was then really thrilled when Grimaldi's opened a branch in Hoboken. Yay, practically next door. Unfortunately the pizza wasn't up to snuff; it was OK but not the same for his discerning palate. So he was very excited when one day I announced that I would like to try making pizza at home. Immediately he bought me this:
This, for those uninitiated in the art of pizza making, is a pizza stone (and no it's not dirty, it's been used a lot and can't be washed) and it is used just in case you don't happen to have a wood burning oven, cause it gets really really hot. Then he bought me this:

a pizza peel, so I could look and act professional. I guess I had to get going; and I did, I made lots and lots of pizzas. Then for some reason once we moved to South Orange I stopped. Besides, there were two pizzerias in town, Bunny's and Reservoir; neither passed muster though. Finally about a month ago or so he found an article on this place and off we went. He liked it so much that he wanted to go all the time. Suddenly I wanted make pizza again! The I saw this post and thought, well I'm going to make that pizza by golly! and I pulled out my equipment! I make my pizza dough from a very old recipe I have from Pierre Franey's 60-minute Gourmet, because it works so well and it really does rise in 30 minutes, even though I usually let it go for an hour.

Pizza Dough

1 envelope active dry yeast
3/4 cup warm water (100F)
2 cps + 2 tbsp flour
2 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp semolina

1. Dissolve the yeast in 1/4 cup of the warm water. Place in the container of a food processor and add 2 cups of the flour, salt to taste, and 1 1/2 tbsp of the olive oil. Blend, turning on and off 3 times. Add the remaining water and blend for about 10 seconds, until the dough begins to form a ball.
2. Remove the dough to a board dusted with the remaining flour. Knead it and form it into  a neatly rounded ball.
Wrap the dough in a towel and let rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes.

3. If available, place a pizza stone in the oven and preheat the oven to 500F. 4. Flour the ball of dough lightly and press it out to a 12-in round, about 1/4 inch thick. Sprinkle a pizza peel with the semolina and place the dough round on it. Alternatively, place the dough rounds on a lightly oiled metal tray.
5. Place the toppings as in David Lebovitz's Tomato Basil Pizza (link above)
6. Slide the pizza from the peel onto the pizza stone in the oven.
7. Bake 10-12 minutes, rotating once or twice. Remove the pizza with the peel
Cut into wedges

and serve.

Kiss Grimaldi's and Arturo's goodbye, and sing this little tune

Max just loves Dino!

September 4, 2011


By a bee, near my favorite tree
oh me
oh my

why me

and not he


Peaches & Herb

I'm not much of a fruit eater, grapes here and there, maybe a banana, tangerine once in a while...that about covers it. I can't, however, resist buying peaches. Then I get home and I don't know what to do with them. It's not that I can't think of anything, there are pies, tarts, crumbles galore; I just don't always feel like making those. So when I came home last week with a bunch of peaches I had to find something to do fast before they rotted so I hit the always reliable Tastespotting and found this lovely recipe for Peaches poached with Basil and since I have loads of basil how could I possibly go wrong.

Serves 6
Place the wine, 1 1/2 cups water and sugar in a wide bottomed saucepan and stir to dissolve the sugar slightly. Place the pan on the stove over medium heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes and then reduce the heat, leaving the syrup to simmer gently.
Cut the peaches in half and remove pits gently. Drop half of the basil leaves into the syrup, and then gently place the peach halves cut side down into the syrup. Poach for about 3 minutes and then gently turn over using a slotted spoon. Continue poaching for an additional 3 – 4 minutes, until soft (cooking time will depend on ripeness of peaches). Carefully prick the cut side of the peaches to check for tenderness. The peels should be wrinkling up as well. You may cook the peaches in two batches if all the halves will not fit in the pan at once.
Remove the peaches to a plate with a slotted spoon. When they are cool enough to handle, gently slide the skins off and discard. Add all but about six basil leaves to the syrup and bring to a boil; boil until reduced by about half. Pour any juices that have collected on the plate with the peaches into the syrup. Leave to cool to room temperature.
and what can I say about that beautiful pink syrup do we serve them with. I know mascarpone! Which I didn't have any of so I guess I'll just have to make my own.

Mascarpone adapted from notwithousalt.

2 cups pasteurized (not ultra-pasteurized, if possible) cream
1 T fresh lemon juice
Heat to 190* on medium low. Continually stir, taking care not to scorch the bottom.
When the cream has reached 190* add the lemon juice. It will immediately get a touch thicker. Heat at 190* for another 5 minutes, stirring often.

Remove from the heat, cover the pan and refrigerate over night or until completely cool.
Once cream has cooled it will be nearly as thick as sour cream.
Place a strainer lined with four layers of cheesecloth over a medium bowl. Add the thickened cream to the cheesecloth. Gather the corners and carefully tie the ends to form a bundle. Hang this in the fridge and let drain into the bowl for another 12-24 hours, or overnight. There should be a couple tablespoons of whey left in the bowl after it’s finished draining.
After the cream has hung and drained your mascarpone is finished and ready to use
and how much fun was that!!!!


Max isn't much of a fruit eater either so he's not very impressed with this
He likes this better