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Monday, May 28, 2012

Scallops with Mushrooms in Cream Sauce over Linguini

Sometimes the mere mention of an ingredient ignites a craving.  A few days ago, while watching reruns of Sex and the City (it never gets old), the girls were having dinner and Samantha was expressing her boredom with New York, "It should be called Same York," she sighed.  "Even these scallops are boring." 

Miranda sampled one and said, "You're crazy and this scallop is delicious."

Had to have scallops.  I am that easily influenced.

Bought both Bay and Dry Sea Scallops to create a custom Coquille St. Jacques - Scallops with Mushrooms in Cream Sauce over Linguini.

A loose recollection of what happened in the kitchen:

Sear off scallops in a bit of olive oil and butter. 
Remove from pan.
Sautee mushrooms and shallots in same hot pan.
Deglaze - recipe called for white wine, I used a bit of chicken stock.
Parsley, salt, pepper, garlic (gently, gently)
Add scallops back in with reserved juice which resulted from searing.
Stir in heavy cream and turn down heat.
Toss with cooked linguini



Younger son had 2 friends over at the time and though one used an expletive (not to me, but to my son) to describe how delicious he felt this meal was, I appreciate his enthusiasm.

Wonder if any Sex and the City rerun marathons can be found today?

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Memorial Day

The Village has held a Memorial Day parade followed by a graveside service for the past 4 years in a row.  It is a revived tradition that had fallen by the wayside for a number of years.

The parade portion is well attended by residents who line Main Street, waiving miniature American flags, children running to the edge of the sidewalk to scoop up candy thrown by those in floats or fire engines.

The marchers end at the cemetery for a brief service then the revelers continue to a large field next to an ice cream stand where the children can play in free inflatable bounce houses and a vintage car show is held.

The difference this year - a very personalized and moving memorial service at the cemetery after the parade and before the merriment.

The members of the local VFW have always stressed to residents that Memorial Day is not a day of celebration, but a solemn occasion, a time to remember those who have died for their country.

This year the speakers from the Mayor, the Town Supervisor and the VFW Quartermaster were all very moving and poignant.  The reading of the following poem by an unknown author was quite fitting:

It was the Veteran,
Not the reporter,
Who has given us freedom of the press.

It was the Veteran,
Not the poet,
Who has given us freedom of speech.

It was the Veteran,
Not the lawyer,
Who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It was the Veteran,
Not the police,
Who has given us the right to be secure in our persons.

It was the Veteran,
Not the campus organizer,
Who has given us the right to demonstrate.

It is the Veteran,
Not the politician,
Who defends our Nation

It is the Veteran,
Who served under the flag.
Who gave his oath to support and defend
The Constitution and Our Nation
Against all Enemies, Foreign and Domestic

It is the Veteran,
Willing to give his life to protect your freedoms and mine.
Whose coffin is draped by the flag.

Also this year, 2 personal stories were shared about soldiers who were from the area and buried in the cemetery where the service was held.  The meaning of the day was clear.



The services were concluded and the crowd dispersed.  Following tradition, my husband and I joined a number of neighbors and went to the ice cream stand.  The sun beat down and everyone was hot and streaky with sweat.  Children tested their parents patience as they whined for ice cream, or a hot dog they wanted to prepare with condiments by themselves, a few tempers may have flared. 

I stood in line with my thoughts still swirling around the words spoken at the memorial.  My father-in-law was a veteran, my grandfather was a veteran and if I could have a choice it would be for a more peaceful world.

I think I understand how we have made the leap from a day of honor and remembrance to a three day weekend that kick starts the summer barbecue season.  Perhaps it started in the same way many chose to not simply sit and mourn the dead, but rather celebrate a loved one's life with stories or photos of happier times. I ordered soft serve vanilla with a waffle cone in a dish (it is always served with a chocolate chip cookie as well) and took a seat in the shade.  I realized more people attended the memorial service this year than the family activities.

With much to reflect on, I finish every last bit of my ice cream - I am indeed fed well.


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Al Fresco Lunch for 2

After a week or two of wet weather as I imagine must be found in the state of Washington, it was a welcome sight on the Saturday morning of Memorial Day weekend to see the sun.  However, within a few hours of attending the local Spring Artist Street Fair, Town Wide Yard Sale and Farmers Market, I was positively wilted.

My fabulous husband teased me about turning into one of the awful characters in a Snicker's commercial.  The sad part - he was right.

I gathered a few supplies at the Farmers Market to make up a very casual lunch for the two of us on the deck (in the shade)!

Oil cured olives,



Marinated mushrooms,

A 1 1/4 pound ball of fresh mozzarella (I had the tomatoes)

A beautifully prepared pear tart, (designed to be an individual serving, I did have the restraint to only eat 1/4 at this sitting - must be the heat)

On the table, some oil and vinegar,

I grilled a few slices of seedless Italian bread, bought from the same vendor as the mozzarella,

For me, an open face sandwich with a few slices of salami on the side,

For him, a more traditional approach, a closed sandwich with a drizzle of oil and vinegar,

and the bit that took the edge off - a splash of Limoncello, some ice and a bit of Sierra Mist.



Enjoy the weekend - eat outside!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Meat and Potatoes Men

I've always taken care of the majority of the meals, menus, planning, and food preparation in general for my husband and our two adult sons.  Though our sons are only 4 years apart in age, they have vastly different food preferences, but steak is something all the men in the house agree on.  

When it comes to potatoes though, they still have varying opinions from french fries to tater tots, mashed to home fries, some one has to give in to a level of tolerance.  I also sneak in vegetables and with the bright green season of spring, they don't really mind a little asparagus, sauteed simply and quickly in a splash of olive oil with salt and pepper.  The real trick to this meal involved the silent war being waged between my husband and our youngest son.  In summary, it was something to do with tools, the use of the garage, which rags are for cleaning what and moving each other's stuff in general.  My older son and I tried to awkwardly fill in the conversational gaps.



Onions in a black cast iron skillet are a requirement with steak as far as I am concerned.  A peaceful conversation among my family of four is just as important, but if they can't be civil, being quiet as they work it out in their own minds is perfectly fine.




As I prepare the rest of the meal, the gas grill heats up and though it seems to take forever in the rain, once it reaches temperature I prefer to time the cooking per side to about 4 minutes.  The beef is seasoned with a dry rub, salt and pepper.




It's not that we have steak that often, but I had planned it since all the men would be around the table together.  A meal they mostly agree on is rare and luckily so are quiet dinners.



As for the potatoes, I love using Bistro gravy granules from England to fill the well.  We have friends who frequently travel to England and our older son is hoping to escort them soon as well.

As he finished the last bite of his meal, our younger son asked to be excused from the table and disappeared to his room for the night.  Though my husband wanted to work it all out, I recommended a 24 hour cooling off period - yes, a manly man's time out.  

They have come to an agreement and as this blog is being written are talking as if nothing ever happened.  Though not every meal can be a celebration they are all a part of a real life with ups and downs, good memories and less favorite times.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

First Farmers Market of the Season

Yes, the local farmers market does have CSA's, fresh fruits and vegetables, flowers, prepared foods from a local restaurant, local honey, live mascots of the two and four legged variety and live entertainment.  Don't they all?


For me, today was about the breads and baked goods.  I wanted them all.  If I were ever told I HAD to give up a food group, this would hurt to my core - breads and pastas are surely my life source.

Who can resist this...


and healthy varieties...


an "exotic" bread...


and the one I had to have, the one I bought two slices of after taking this shot!


Welcome back to the market, welcome back!

Next week I hope to also buy some fresh produce to top the lovely bread I select - I see fresher sandwiches and salads in my (and my families) near future.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Meeting New Friends? Tacos in a Bag!

The first time my older son had tacos in a bag was as an adult at a friend's house.  When he first told me about this twist on a traditional favorite, I crinkled my nose and thought, "What's wrong with just a regular old taco?  Soft taco shells were the only evolution necessary."  Wrong.

For this particular serving, we were meeting a new friend of my older son, she had never had the taco in a bag experience and as a bonus, my son was cooking. (Mother that I am, I could not resist chopping up the lettuce and tomatoes waiting for him to get home and make dinner.)

Tacos in a bag requires the same ingredients you would need for a traditional taco.  For us that means lettuce and tomato,
seasoned and browned ground beef, cheddar or blend of cheeses, taco sauce and sour cream. 

 Vegetarians of course may chose to substitute rice, tofu or other protein for the meat.  Additional options are as limitless as for any other taco - maybe try fish, shrimp, chicken, turkey, add guacamole or slices of avocado, get creative.

For the "bag" portion of tacos in a bag we buy a large box of snack size chips which may include traditional nacho chips, cool ranch chips, and my favorite for this recipe - Fritos.



Hypocrite that I am, I first scorned the meal and now am morphing it into my own. I do not eat mine out of a bag, but pour all ingredients onto a plate and mix them together in a taco salad fashion. 

My older son, a taco in a bag purist, first crunches up the nachos then opens the bag and dumps in all ingredients then either shakes or mixes it together before eating with a fork.

The husband prefers his without sour cream.  This also makes for more visual appeal.

My younger son avoids the bag experience and simply heats a few soft tortilla shells and prepares a more traditional taco.  Which of us are the most similar?  Hard to say.

And our new guest?  Well, she went right along with the instructions given by my older son and seemed to enjoy her first taco in a bag.  It must have went fairly well - they are out together again tonight.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Anniversary Lunch at the Culinary Institute of America

On a cloudy Monday in May, we visited the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY's Ristorante Caterina de' Medici for the second time.  Our first visit was for our 20th wedding anniversary and now we were celebrating our 25th. 

In the morning, we visited the historic Vanderbilt Mansion (http://www.nps.gov/vama/index.htm). 

We had visited the home of President Franklin.D.Roosevelt (http://www.nps.gov/hofr/index.htm) in the past but never made it just a bit farther to the Vanderbilt Mansion grounds, though we believe we have seen it from a number of Hudson River boat rides.

The tour was wonderful, informative, our guide was fun and I was able to take quite a few photographs.  A new tour including "At your Service:  Behind the Scenes," will soon begin and we were happy to be ahead of the crowds.  However, the formal gardens though massive and beautiful were not able to be fully appreciated with limited plants in bloom.

Off to the CIA for a wonderful meal.

I especially love talking with the students.  For this trip, they were all new to the service area (front of the house) and our server was a mere 9 weeks from graduation.  The professor bustled about with limited expression as he corrected, assisted and pointed out errors.  We first enjoyed a "gift" from the chef, a strawberry wrapped in prosciutto and topped with chopped pancetta.  The perfect amuse bouche (though I often divided bite size portions in half to allow longer lasting enjoyment).


For me, a starter of beef carpaccio.  The common joke for beef sliced this thin may be, "It was so thin it only had one side," and it was exquisitely delicate in size while quite flavorful.



For my husband, a starter of more prosciutto.  It is a love we share and so we can't ever really have too much!  The tiny cornichon were not his favorite, but I enjoyed a sample.

Roast quail with sausage stuffing wrapped in bacon on a bed of spring risotto with peas.  For Monsieur or Madame?

The meat was succulent and moist, the stuffing savory, the rice creamy and decadent.



A medium-rare grilled steak with a side dish of....



Rosemary Truffle Fries with a creamy Parmesan dipping sauce.  The fries were perfectly crisp on the outside with a baked potato consistency on the inside.  Heaven in a snappy bite. 

Dessert was a take home order of an assortment of Italian cookies and Profiteroles.  I don't know why, but I expected the shmancy cream puffs to have a dignified coating of chocolate on top.  Though I may have missed it for a second, the pastry were prepared beautifully on demand.

A tasty field trip to remember.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

New Things in the Paper Sack Lunch

Ask most students what their favorite part of the school day is and they will likely answer, "recess."  The closest equivalent to recess in the average work day is lunch and I do look forward to it.  Combining my loves - a passion for food and just talking stuff over. 

*WARNING:  NOT FOR THE EASILY QUEASY* 

We do talk about everything from modern women making the decision to have their placenta encapsulated after they give birth so they may possibly receive the benefits of additional iron, reduced bleeding and higher nutrition for their newborn to the craziest behaviors we have seen at weddings.  And, many times, we talk about food.  What's for lunch in the cafeteria, how we feel about the cafeteria offerings in general, the area restaurants, what we're cooking for dinner, and if we recently tried any new dishes or foods.

I am always at a slight disadvantage in the area restaurant chat portion because I live almost one hour away from work and even after 4 years am still learning my way around the neighborhood near my place of employment. 

Recently, my work neighbor ran out at lunch then joined us in the conference room with this bag.  The immediately shocking part is the fact that she is and has been a vegetarian for quite some time.  Had she fallen off the wagon and needed a double cheese with bacon? 

Also, she typically eats in the medium to high range of healthy.  What happened?  Is this the food equivalent of falling off the wagon?  Was she heading for some kind of culinary crash landing?  Did this one binge need to be noted in case of future intervention proceedings?

NO, No, no.

Smash Burger (a chain I have little knowledge of) offers a vegetarian black bean burger topped with jalapeno peppers and a slew of other toppings.


Yes, they also have "regular" burgers and are fairly close to our building.  We are already planning a field trip to invade this somewhat mysterious joint.

I was immediately drawn in by the choice of other sides instead of potatoes.  Let the double arches offer apple slices, this place offers battered and deep fried pickles as well as flash fried veggie frites, string beans and carrots with a buttermilk ranch dipping sauce.  Oh my.  Their menu even includes truffle fries.  Now we're talking.

I'm not saying I am ready to ditch beef (or chicken or pork) but I do enjoy switching it up and look forward to giving a few of my meals a veggie or meatless twist.  Might even end it with a Haagen Dazs shake.  If you come to my department and we are all asleep at our desks at 2 p.m., it may be because we binged at Smash Burger. 


Would extra tread mill miles help?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Marsala Medallions with Mash or Chicken and Potatoes?

Weeknight dinners...in an effort to keep things exciting without spending a lot of time, the 30 minute meal was likely born.  The trick is to also rotate the menu so the taste buds and family are not restless, keep the ingredient list fairly simple and ensure many components are always on hand.  Every once in while, an error will be made like forgetting that the mushrooms were used with the grilled steak and are no longer in the drawer for Chicken Marsala.  The other obstacle is once my mind and salivary glands have communicated the promise of food to come, it is difficult to detour or substitute.  With Marsala and mashed potatoes in mind, improvisation is forced. 

The easy solution is to simply make the chicken without the mushrooms and so a plan was formed.

Using boneless, skinless chicken breast sliced into "medallions" - ok, they were sort of 1 x 2 cubes, but give a writer a little poetic license, then dredged in flour and browned in a magic red pot. 



(Ever since I received mine I have been able to produce a new dynamic of fabulous meals)

The chicken is then seasoned with salt, pepper then browned in a splash of olive oil.  Some garlic, a bit of fresh parsley, chicken broth, a generous pat of butter and a gurgle  + splash of Marsala wine. 


Simmer and reduce until the sauce is thick, lush and irresistible.

Serve on a pillow of mashed potatoes.



Don't be surprised if everyone is quiet for the first few minutes.  They are merely enjoying the fabulous food, tongues smiling and thinking happy thoughts.  In fact, no one really missed the mushrooms this time.