Cutting Board Tacos

1)  Take one insanely hot summer day and your basic taco fixin’s…

(Nothin’ fancy — just the basics — seasoned with this.)

(Allow me to zoom in a bit closer.)

2)  Assemble them on the nearest cutting board.

(Closer…)

3)  Add a lil’ sunshine and a fork.

(Clooooser…)

4)  Okay… a LOT of sunshine and a fork.

(There we go!)

5)  Think of winter and laugh.  Bwahahah!

(Apologies to my Southern hemisphere friends…)

Serve with a side of this and pull up a chair.

That’d be it. :)

Enjoying easy weeknight meals,

~ Kimby

What’s your favorite “beat the heat” meal?

.

.

.

Bye, Bye, Miss American Fry

I’ve always loved potatoes — baked, mashed, creamed, boiled, roasted, you name it — but the ones that make me swoon are fried potatoes.

My fondness for sauteed spuds hails back to my roots, when my folks would take us “up north” fishing.  I can still picture Mom cooking Dad’s early morning catch (generally walleye) in a cast iron skillet, adjacent to a larger skillet filled with sliced potatoes sizzling in butter.  Their aroma would waft through the open screen door to mingle with pine, birch, and lake-scented air and beckon me to blaze a trail to the table, where all of the above was served on a Melmac plate with a side of toast.

Breakfast doesn’t get much finer than that.

During “the trucking years” I looked forward to breakfast more than any other meal — particularly breakfast potatoes.  After a day or night of shifting gears across America, I’d search for a good ol’ fashioned truck stop — not one of those huge, hundred-acre mega-plexes, but a “Mom & Pop” joint — neat and tidy, with a little wear and tear around the edges, and a cook who looked like they’d put in a few miles, too.

After perusing the “breakfast section” of the menu, I’d order any combo that came with American Fries (sometimes hailed as “home fries”) and anticipate that mound of crisp-on-the-outside, tender-on-the-inside, hand-peeled, hand-cut spuds, pan-fried to a golden brown.  Depending on which region I was in (and which cook was slinging hash), the spuds would hint of butter, bacon grease, or lard — but, they were never greasy — and they typically sported diced onion or peppers.   Potato perfection.

Then came the convenience food revolution and a noticeable decline in “American fries” — often replaced by mechanically cut, frozen cubes dunked in a deep fryer.   Not the same!  I could almost hear Don McClean crooning, “Bye… bye… Miss American Fry…”

Thankfully, I ran across a recipe in the “good ol’ days” that never fails to deliver the taste and texture I’ve been missing.  Although billed as a ‘salad’ (Warm Irish Potato Salad http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/taste/11445761.html), these spuds are entirely suitable for breakfast, and worthy of their title.
 

American Fries (adapted from ‘The Local’ linked above)

4 c. red potatoes, diced

8 slices bacon, diced

1/2 c. malt vinegar

4 green onions, sliced

4 Tbsp. fresh parsley, minced

Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste

Cook potatoes in boiling water until almost tender; drain.  Rinse with cold water; place in a sieve to drain thoroughly.

In the meantime, fry the bacon in a large skillet until crisp; remove to paper toweling to drain.  Reserve drippings in skillet.

Heat bacon drippings over high heat; add potatoes.  Reduce heat to medium-high; cook and turn with a spatula until potatoes are browned evenly.  Add malt vinegar; stir gently until vinegar is evaporated.  Remove pan from heat.  Add green onions, parlsey, and bacon.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

As I said, breakfast doesn’t get much finer than that.

Enjoying spud nostalgia,

~ Kim

What kind of potatoes do you like?

Tickled Pink

The other night I was hungry for something simple and satisfying.  Ahhh… red potatoes with parsley and steamed cabbage with cream sauce … that ought to do the trick.  (Pardon me, my Irish is showing.)

One of the basic pleasures in life is cream sauce — white sauce — bechamel.  I generally whip up my own (with success), but I wanted something spectacular to top off my meal.  Mario Batali delivered.

(Not to my house, mind you… although, wouldn’t that be nice!)

After investing the time and “TLC” in Mario’s recipe (which was worth every second it took to produce this luscious, creamy, THICK sauce), I proceeded out to the deck to take pictures.

Wait a minute… the sauce looks pink.  (It wasn’t.)  PINK, I’m telling ya!

Was it picking up the hue from the potatoes?  Hmmm…  I adjusted angles and fiddled with the focus.

And then…

I looked up… and around.

Sunsets are the basic pleasure in life — pink bechamel and all.

Enjoying the Light,

~ Kim

A Chicken By Any Other Name

I like surprises, don’t you?  They keep life fresh and interesting, especially when it comes to relationships. ;)

But first, allow me to share an unexpected award from my lovely friend at Shirley’s Luxury Haven!

Shirley bestowed this award upon me recently (as well as the Versatile Blogger Award, which I’d previously received and passed along), so I’ll limit my acceptance to the “Cherry On Top Award” with grateful thanks for BOTH!  If you haven’t visited Shirley’s blog, please click on the link above and prepare to be pampered, amazed and delighted! 

Before passing along this award, I did some “research” and again found a variety of protocols to follow.  I’m not sure why they change along the way, but here’s what I found…

Answer this question: “If you could go back and change anything about your life, what would it be and why?”; Share your favorite photo (not necessarily food); Pass it on to 15…10…6… other bloggers; Tell 6…7…10…things about yourself, etc…

Instead, I hope you don’t mind if I make make up my own rules.  Here are five exceptional bloggers who truly put that “little bit extra” into all they do — hence the “Cherry On Top!” Please pass this onto bloggers who you feel do the same and include any or all of the above — or not.  Surprise!

1)  Isabelle At Home

2)  Basilmomma

3)  Cooking Healthy For Me

4)  The Culinary Lens

5)  ChopinandMySaucepan

Congratulations Isabelle, Heather, Ann, Mike, and Chopin & Mysaucepan — and thanks again, Shirley!  Your blogs keep me inspired, happy, cooking, and SURPRISED!

Okay, back to the topic at hand…

Back when the hubby and I were newlyweds (many moons ago), he surprised me by informing me that “chicken once a week” was often enough for him. (A surprise to this poultry lover!)  Seems he’d eaten a fair share of fowl in his bachelor days and he was ready for some meat and potatoes cookin’, ala yours truly.  No problem, though.  I’ve had free reign in the kitchen, as well as his respect and confidence in my ability to manage the grocery budget — and menus — at my discretion.  LOVE IT!  LOVE HIM!

Then one dark and stormy night…  I roasted a whole chicken.

Generally on such occasions, I’d “break it down” after dinner, freeze the leftovers and reintroduce them somewhere past Day 7 the following week.  (Or make separate meals to accommodate both of our tastes.)  The things we do for love!

But, it was late and I was tired, so I wrapped what was left of that delectable chicken and put it in the fridge.  I was also pressed for time for dinner prep the following night.  What to do…

The opposite of surprise in a relationship is familiarity.  It’s that lovely/loving quality that emerges over time, like the patina on a cherished piece of furniture or the hugged-thin spots on a favorite teddy bear’s coat.  Somehow, I just knew my man wouldn’t mind “Chicken Round Two” given the circumstances.

(It’s like those times when I’ve added an extra handful of breadcrumbs to a meatloaf or a couple of extra egg whites to an omelette) — he trusts my judgement and expects good food!  Plus, I had a hankerin’ for something chicken-y and — well — the only trick was getting around the title.  (I wasn’t being deceptive… just “creative”…  make that familiar.)

How do you not mention chicken, as in: “Sweet-Sour Chicken?”

Sweet-Sour Chicken

2 chicken breasts, cooked and cubed (I used leftovers…)

1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced

1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced

1 sweet yellow onion, diced

1 (20 oz.) can of pinepple tidbits, drained (reserve juice)

2 T. oil (I used part sesame oil/part olive oil)

Sweet-Sour Sauce (recipe follows)

Hot cooked rice

For the sauce:

1 T. reserved pineapple juice

1 T. cornstarch

1/2 c. Turbinado sugar

1/2 c. soy sauce

1/4 c. white vinegar (apple cider vinegar is good, too)

1 clove of garlic, finely minced

1/2 t. ground ginger (or freshly grated ginger if you have it)

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Prepare the main ingredients first.  (You’ll want them ready to wok and roll when your oil gets hot. :)  Set aside.

In a small saucepan, combine sugar, soy sauce, vinegar and seasonings; heat until boiling.  Combine the reserved pineapple juice (1 T.) with cornstarch; whisk into sauce.  (Keep whisking — it thickens fast!)  Remove from heat when mixture becomes thickened and bubbly; set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the oil (whatever combo you choose) in a wok or large skillet.  Add peppers and onions; sauté until the veggies are nearly cooked; push to the side.

Add pineapple tidbits; allow them to caramelize a bit before giving everything a good stir.  Place cooked, cubed chicken over the top.  At this point, remove the pan from the heat and cover — since the chicken was already cooked, it only needs to reheat.

When warmed to your liking, uncover and stir in sauce until everything is coated — or serve on the side if you like.  Ladle over hot cooked rice.  Chopsticks optional.

When my hubby dearest walked through the door that night and asked “What’s for supper,” I answered with a cheerful (and truthful), “Try this!” and gave him a taste.  His reaction…?

The Man Of Few Words aka Man Of Fewer Chicken Dinners said:  “This is really good!”

After the first helping, he dished up seconds.  After the second helping, he admitted to contemplating thirds!  (Which is very unlike him.)  When he got up from the table he asked, “So what did you say this stuff was called again?”

I grinned and replied:  “Stir Fry.” … ;)

Enjoying life’s little surprises,

~ Kim

Boeuf… It’s What’s For Dinner

I don’t speak a lick of French, but I love the cooking terms.  They make me feel more animated.  (Not that I need any help in that department.)  Try saying ragout without a hearty goo on the second syl-la-ble, or mirepoix without a saucy little kiss at the end.  (Julia Child I’m not, but there’s joie de vivre in my kitchen!)

Earlier this month, we feasted on a fabulous roast infused with garlic and smeared with Dijon.  “Pardon me, but would you happen to have...  (Yes, the chauffeur was undeniably British, but Grey Poupon remains indelibly etched in my mind.)

After we ate our fill, I relegated the rest to the freezer for future consideration.  Then inspiration struck.  Voila!  Ragout.

Traditionally, ragout is prepared by searing fresh cubes of meat and simmering them to perfection.  However, my schedule requires speeding things up now and then — kinda like being on “Chopped” in the comfort of my own home, without Ted Allen.

But no matter how rushed I am, a mirepoix is a must.  The marvel of this 2:1:1 ratio of onions, carrots and celery cannot be overstated.  (Unless you dice the onions last — then it’s 1:1:2.)

Confession.  For all of my French word frenzy, I forgot to add one vital ingredient: Cabernet.  I dispensed it in a goblet instead…

Weeknight Ragout

Leftover roast beef (preferrably using this recipe)

2 T. extra virgin olive oil

1 c. onion, diced

1/2 c. carrot, diced

1/2 c. celery, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 c. beef broth or bouillon — another fun word!

1 c. red potatoes (unpeeled), cubed

1 fresh tomato, seeded and chopped

Cabernet, to taste…

1/4 t. ground thyme

Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper

Green onion tops sliced diagonally, for garnish

Cut the roast into cubes; set aside.  Meanwhile, in a Dutch oven or heavy kettle, sauté the onions, carrots and celery in oil until translucent.  (Take your time — “sweating” brings out the maximum flavor.)  Add garlic; sauté briefly until fragrant.

Pour in broth and bring mixture to a boil.  Add potatoes and tomato.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until potatoes are barely tender.  If desired, add wine.  (Or not…)  Stir in beef and thyme.  Simmer until heated through.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Ladle into bowls.  Garnish with green onion tops.  Makes 2 lovely servings.

One last thing.  Ragout is generally more of a stew, thickened with a roux.  Woohoo.  But I was content with the way this turned out, so I served it au naturel. ;)  C’est la vie!

Enjoying ma petite foray in the kitchen,

~ Kim