Market Finds

Market Finds
Farmer's Market Bounty

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The New Recipe Box

My cherished recipe boxes from my grandmother Leak (left)  and grandmother Zachary (right).  Look at their handwriting, it tells so much.  Guess which one was the 1st grade teacher and which one was the artist?

One of my most prized possessions are the two recipe boxes that belonged to my grandmother's.  Each is overflowing with handwritten, food stained, index cards and newspaper clippings. These boxes are time capsules, perfectly showcasing the trends of the day as well as long cherished family recipes. Several times a year, I pull out these boxes and take a walk down memory lane.  

I love perusing the old index cards and clippings.  Feeling grateful for the many wonderful family meals  I enjoyed at each of their dinner tables.  I fondly remembering the fresh baked apple pie and my favorite chicken casserole.  I went in search of my grandmother Zachary's chicken casserole recipe last week, when I was in desperate need of some comfort food. I decided to make up a batch for myself.  It hit the spot, but I know it used to taste even better surrounded by family, as we sat at my grandmother's lace-covered dining room table.

Look at this collection of dinner party menu's.  Certainly, I have no recollection of what was for Christmas dinner in 1975, but it's nice to know we had oyster dressing, which is still a staple at all of our family holiday meals

Over the years, I have also, kept a record of my dinner party menus and have several journals dedicated to menus and party ideas.  I have never started a recipe box, but do have folders full of magazine clippings and recipes printed from the internet.  Of course, my newest "recipe box" is my blog and website.  It may not be as quaint, as an old handwritten box of recipes, but it is my way of preserving my family favorites, as well as my original creations.   I can only hope that one day, my grandchildren will be appreciative of the history I am collecting in my virtual recipe box.  

Below is the neatly written index card recipe for the favorite chicken casserole of my childhood.  It's not health food, and quite honestly, I would never even try to recreate this in a healthier version.  Sometimes, fond memories are all the nutrition your body and soul require.

Don't forget to make every plate something to be passionate about!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Tomato Time!

Beautiful assortment of tomatoes: Canned, Yellow, Beefsteak and Sun Dried

Summer is tomato time in the south.  Before, I even enjoyed eating tomatoes, I recall my mom, aunt and grandmother, gushing over the delicious tomatoes from the garden.  These tomatoes were always on my grandmother's dinner table, simply peeled and sliced on a plate. Nothing more, nothing less.  Sadly, I did not appreciate these garden delicacies at the time.  It would be many years later before I comprehended the love of a home grown tomato, and how different it was from the unfortunate tasteless orbs on display year round at my local supermarket.

As my palate matured, I grew into a true tomato lover.   I have more than made up for my earlier lack of tomato consumption over the past twenty years.  In fact, last summer, I took part in a large scale tomato canning session with my Can-Can Girls.  I don't recall exactly how many pounds of tomatoes we put up, but I do remember that it took six of us, two full days to complete the task of preserving summer's bounty.  

So treasured, were my jars of canned tomatoes, that I refused to eat them, for fear of running out before the next tomato canning summit.  I had become a selfish hoarder.  Well, about a month ago, a date was set for tomato canning 2014.  This meant that I had less than ten weeks to consume the dozen or so quarts of tomatoes, sitting quietly in the cool, darkness of my canned goods pantry (formerly my hall coat closet).  

The beautiful canned tomatoes make a lovely rustic pasta sauce, which I have been eating quite a lot of lately.  This sauce requires nothing more than a can of tomatoes, two grated garlic cloves, red pepper flakes and salt and pepper, sauteed in a bit of olive oil.  As much as I enjoy this tomato sauce, it was time to come up with another recipe in which to use my stock of tomatoes.  Thus, the Tomato Mop was born.

Years ago, I enjoyed a dish called tomato mop at a British Pub, called The Fox and Hound.  I vividly remember the warm and richly flavored tomato sauce, topped with melty goat cheese and served with crunchy garlic toasts. This dish makes a great appetizer or a wonderful vegetarian main dish, along side a simple green salad.  

If you are not fortunate enough to have a coat closet overflowing with home-canned tomatoes, I would recommend using organic, fire-roasted tomatoes instead.  

I hope a home-grown summer tomato is in your future, but if not, enjoy the deep tomatoey flavor of my Tomato Mop.  And.....don't forget to make every plate something to be passionate about!

Tomato Mop:

1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, grated
2 15 oz cans of organic fire roasted tomatoes, drained 
1 can of organic tomato paste
1 cup of chopped, dry packed, sun-dried tomatoes 
1/2 teaspoon of raw sugar
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
4 oz of goat cheese

Step One:
Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a skillet.  Add the garlic, canned tomatoes and tomato paste.  Cook and stir until tomato paste has melted and incorporated into the canned tomatoes.  Next, stir in sun-dried tomatoes, sugar, salt and pepper and red pepper flakes (if using).

Step Two:
Place tomato mixture into a pie plate, coated with non-stick spray.  Crumble goat cheese over top of tomatoes and place under a broiler, set on HIGH, until cheese begins to brown.  Tomato mop can be served warm or at room temperature with garlic toasts.

Garlic Toasts:
1 baguette in 1/4 inch slices
Non-Stick olive oil spray
1-2 large cloves of garlic, Peeled

Spray baguette slices with olive oil spray and grill on both sides on hot a grill pan, until crispy.  Or, place toasts on a sheet tray and toast in the oven on 350 degrees for about 8-10 minutes.

While toast is still warm, rub a raw garlic clove gently, over both sides of the bread.

If  you happen to have any of the tomato mop leftover, it makes a great breakfast, reheated and served with a poached or sunny side up egg on top.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Spreading the Love

For the past year or so, I have been learning the art of preserving from the wonderful women in my "Can-Can Girls" group.  My skills increased with each session,  but perhaps I relied too heavily on the other's expertise to get the job done.  Quite frankly, as much as I liked canning, I wondered if maybe, I was there more for the camaraderie, gourmet lunch and glass or three of wine. 
It is a good thing that I absorbed plenty of knowledge during our group work sessions, because as it turned out, the last time we girls got together, the price of admission, was a dish inspired by a recipe from the book Preserving by the Pint, by Melissa Mc Clellen.  This meant I had can all by myself!

My first three jars of Tomato-Corn Relish.  How cute are these jars?

Never one to miss a party, I dove head first into this charming book on small batch canning.  I chose the Corn and Tomato Relish featured on page ninety four.  With my ingredients and jars purchased, I began my solo canning session early one Saturday morning.  The house was quiet, except for the lovely sound of glass jars, gently clanking against one another in a large pot of boiling water.  I chopped, measured, sterilized, filled, processed and listened for the triumphant popping sound of the jars, sealing.  Success!  I had so much fun making that first batch of relish, that I made and processed another recipe the very next day.  One week later, I found myself teaching a neighborhood friend how to can.  I must have been feeling pretty confident that day, as we put up pickled okra and Spicy Apple Cider and Mustard Glaze  from Preserving by the Pint.  We had a great time and I was happy to be the instructor, rather than the student.  Even more satisfying, was that I feel certain that I have spread the love of canning with my friend. 

Apple Cider Glaze and Pickled Okra
The Glaze will be perfect on a pork tenderloin and the pickled okra is destined to garnish a spicy bloody Mary

Southern Summer Salad: Inspired by the corn and tomato relish
Southern Summer Salad:

1 bag of mixed salad greens
1/2 of an English cucumber, sliced
1 large beefsteak tomato, cut into wedges
1 avocado, diced
2  scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup toasted pecan halves
1/4 cup of cooked and crumbled, proscuitto or bacon
1 half-pint jar of corn and tomato relish*

Place ingredients in a salad bowl in the order listed above.  Toss with a light coating of dressing just before serving.

*1/2 cup of seeded and chopped tomatoes and 1/2 cup of fresh corn kernels may be substituted for the relish.

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon coarse Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons local honey
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch of cayenne
Sea Salt and pepper to taste

Combine ingredients in a mason, attached the lid and shake it up.

I have certainly found a new hobby to be passionate about!