Musing with Max

Musing with Max

April 29, 2013

A Spring in my step

Well after much anticipation and false starts I do believe Spring has finally arrived. A tad late I would say but here nonetheless. The crab apples are showing the threat of blooms

which thrills me no end. Even though one of them seems to have a bit of fire blight, quite a bit actually so I'm afraid it may have to go. Part of it still has these though

which makes me rethink the "has to go" comment. I believe this is the third Spring I've had this conversation with myself. I grow attached to my trees, hard to let them go

we'll see, the replacement possibilities are endless. Lilacs are starting to show also

which means that soon their heady scent will be filling the house. The dogwood and wisteria are showing sings of life and the hostas, daylillies and peonies are all pushing through the ground in that amazing way they do. The hydrangeas are quickly filling up with leaves as are the astilbes and the roses. The Lilly of the valley is ready to burst it's little white blooms and the azaleas are suddenly looking very colorful. The temperature was exactly where it was supposed to be this weekend with a clear blue cloudless sky and Spring had finally, if tardily arrived.

So we cleaned the yard, and cleaned, and cleaned, and cleaned, and weeded, and weeded, and weeded, and trimmed and cut back and pulled out, and raked, and raked, and raked, and raked, and played with Max

who was ecstatic to be outside most of the day. And then we collapsed. And after a while we came in and made a nice lovely Spring dinner which recipe I stole from Jane, OK I didn't steal it; I made a comment on her post about it that I was going to come back and steal it, but Jane being Jane not two minutes later sent an email with the recipe which she had invented. So here is my version of

Jane's Spring Spinach Lasagna. (Jane adds zucchini, which I didn't), adapted by me.

Serves 4

1 10 oz. bag of frozen chopped Spinach, thawed and the water squeezed out.
olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2-3 garlic cloves minced
salt and pepper, to taste
grated nutmeg, to taste
one cup of basil pesto
1/2 to 3/4 lb. borgata sliced
1/2 to 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups of bechamel sauce (recipe below)
6 oz. of lasagna noodles

Preheat oven to 350F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package directions.

Saute the onion in olive oil slowly until translucent, add garlic and saute for about two more minutes. Add spinach, stirring constantly to break it up, add salt, pepper and grated nutmeg. Cook until warmed through.

Drain the pasta. Place one layer of overlapping pasta at the bottom of the baking dish. Spread 1/3 of the spinach mixture over the pasta, place slices of borgata over the spinach mixture then spread a couple of tablespoons of pesto over that. Cover with some of the bechamel sauce, sprinkle Parmesan cheese over, then start again with a layer of pasta repeating two more times. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for about 25 minutes, remove the foil and cook an additional 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit about ten minutes before digging in.

Bechamel Sauce

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan over medium heat, careful not to brown. When melted add two tablespoons of flour and whisk in until incorporated. Slowly add to cups of milk and continue whisking until thickened. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve and enjoy a bit of Spring.

April 22, 2013

Spring (finally) flowers in the house

For years whenever anyone would ask which was my favorite flower I would always say without any hesitation, the tulip. I don't know if it was because I was always awestruck by those beautiful pictures of fields filled with tulips as far as the horizon, usually taken in Holland ---so I suspect cute wooden shoes may have had something to do with that also. Maybe it was because I grew up in Miami, and although you can grow lots of beautiful flowers there you can't grow tulips in that sandy soil. Maybe it was because they are short lived. Or maybe it was just because they are so dang pretty. These days if I were asked the same question I'm not so sure I would answer the same way.  All the years I've been gardening I've discovered, and continue to discover, so many beautiful flowers that the tulip has become a little pedestrian. Or has it?

I think the first thing I planted in my current garden were tulip bulbs. Red ones. In the front yard underneath the pegee hydrangea and the crepe myrtle. I didn't plant enough though, I want it to be a mini field. Every year I say I will fill the area with tulip bulbs in the Fall, and every year I don't. By the time the Fall comes around I'm a bit gardened out. Maybe this will be the year. I.say.again.....

In the meantime though I'll bring some inside for Jane's Flowers in The House invitation and see if we can start this week on a positive note.

April 3, 2013

Soul Food

This late coming Winter seems to have no intention of leaving. Here it is April 3rd and the temperatures are in the high 30s with blustery winds. This past weekend we had a hint of Spring in the air, I think it was Saturday. I've forgotten about it and how it felt since it was just a blip in the radar. I'm itching to go outside and start working on the yard, cleaning up, trimming, cutting branches back, planning new plantings...all that fun stuff. But when the wind is blowing right through you it's kind of unpleasant. Not even Max wants to be out there

he'll settle for the sun spot, wherever he can find it. Me, I just spend all the time in the kitchen which frankly is not such a bad thing. I've always had this thought in my head "too many recipes, too little time". I have loads of cookbooks, I used to have a lot more but started to run out of room for them so several times I've purged them and donated those that I really don't use. I've also reached a point where I don't buy one unless it's something so special that I must have it, which thankfully isn't very often. Because in addition to my loads of cookbooks, I subscribe to two food magazines, rip out recipes from The New York Times and then of course there's the Internet, a bottomless pit of recipes for just about everything imaginable. So it always boggles my mind when I stand there struggling to decide what I'm going to cook with whatever ingredient I've chosen for a particular meal. I'll go through cookbooks, saved recipes, saved magazines, search online and then...nothing. Then I'll reach for what I've decided is my favorite cookbook: The New American Kitchen by Michael McLaughlin.

Truth is there's nothing new about it. It was published in 1990, which is probably when I bought it yet every time I pick it up I find something new and interesting in it, and timely. And in addition it has recipes that I love so much that I can make over and over and over again. All the chapters have full menus for each meal which makes it even more fun if you decide to make the whole meal, or just one dish as I decided to make this weekend with my big hunk of pork shoulder. I have all kinds of notes and this particular recipe says, this is amazing, and it is.

Pork Ragout with Sweet Peppers, Anchovies and Olives, adapted from
The New American Kitchen

Serves 8

5 lbs. of boneless pork shoulder, trimmed and cut into 2 inch cubes
1/4 cup of olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 cups of chopped yellow onion
6 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 tsp dried oregano, crumbled
2 tsp dried basil, crumbled
2 tsp dried thyme, crumbled
2 bay leaved
1/3 cup of lour
2 1/2 cups canned chicken broth or homemade stock
1/ 1/2 cups dry white wine
3/4 cup fresh orange juice
12 oil-packed anchovy fillets, minced
3 large sweet peppers (1 red, 1 green, 1 yellow) cored and quartered
1 cup medium black olives
1/2 cup finely chopped Italian parsley

Preheat Oven to 350f.

Pat the pork dry. In a 5 quart, flameproof casserole over medium-high heat warm 2 tbsp of the oil. Add 1/4 of the pork and cook turning until well browned, season with salt & pepper. Using a slotted spoon transfer to a bowl. Continue with the remainder of the pork  until all is browned, adding more oil as needed.

Do not clean the pan. Add 3 tbsp of oil and set over medium heat. Stir in the onion, garlic, oregano, basil, thyme, bay leaves. Cover and cook, stirring until tender, about 15 min. Uncover, stir in the flour and cook about 5 min. Stir in the chicken broth, wine, orange juice, anchovies, and browned pork with accumulated juices. Bring the ragout to a boil, cover and bake 45 minutes, Stir the ragout, uncover and bake another 45 to 50 minutes or until the pork is tender.

In a medium sized skillet over high heat warm the remaining olive oil. Add the peppers and cook, tossing and stirring until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.

Adjust the seasoning. Stir the browned peppers, olives and the parsley into the ragout and simmer another one or 2 minutes. Serve immediately.

over rice.

and say "Wow, this is amazing!"