Sunday, February 28, 2010

Strawberry Onion

No, this is not an ordinary onion. This is called a "strawberry onion." In this central part of Florida, land of strawberries, this onion is planted on the edge of the fields to keep bugs and pests away from the precious strawberry crops. These onions, known only as strawberry onions, are then sold at the farmers markets in the area. They are mild, picking up a tantalizing aroma and sweetness from the berries.

They tend to be soft and disintegrate, but we slice them, doctor them with olive oil and kosher salt and pepper and grill them. They are also delightful sliced on a sandwich. A bit pricey, perhaps, $1.50 each, but we enjoy one almost every week during strawberry season.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Just a small town

I was zipping to the small neighboring town for my monthly haircut. I found this place flipping through the yellow pages last fall; liked the small town atmosphere of the salon and I got a good haircut.

As I walk in, memories of walking into a movie theater hit me. Over, seated on the left, was an employee eating a large bag of popcorn. She was thoroughly enjoying it.

Since my beautician was still busy, I made myself comfortable next to the magazine table. The last time I saw so many magazines was at Barnes and Noble, and these were all current. I started flipping through the periodicals and found a great variety of new issues: Bon Appetite, several celebrity mags, motorcycle and outdoor recreations and, what is this? As I flip through, I see it is a lesbian magazine. WOW! I didn't know those existed, but then, I never looked before.

In walks a large man with a floral shirt (it is Florida) and plaid shorts. He is carrying 5 perfect canary yellow roses for the shop owner who will be cutting his hair. He immediately starts begging for popcorn which is provided. I think, to settle him down.

As I remarked of the beautiful color of the roses, I am told this gentleman has an antique/floral shop across the street. I believe there are 2 or 3 antique shops on this street.

Bantering goes on back and forth as there are 6 employees and 5 clients in this small room. Popcorn gals walks up to me and asks, "who wrote 'To Kill a Mockingbird?" As I raise my head out of the magazine, I say "Harper Lee." "Who?" she asks. I repeat my answer. She announces it to the room and everyone cheers...."yes, yes, that's it!" I felt like the heroine of the day.

A local doctor's wife comes in for a color. They start praising her husband who cured a hand rash on the owner earlier in the week. Finally, it's my turn and once again, I am pleased with the cut and style.

Small town, Florida, and I popped in to partake what the slow life is all about. For some reason, I am having a tough time forgetting all these characters. Just thought I 'd share for a change.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Beef and Barley Soup

After reading Cathy's post on Wives with Knives featuring all her soups, I knew today was the day to make a big pot of Beef Barley Soup. It turned out great and was good and hot. I kind of emptied the refrigerator including throwing in some frozen peas. Today was rather cool in Florida, again. I know you have heard this a lot, but it is so strange for Florida weather.

This satisfied us for dinner tonight and there will be enough for dinner tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

It's a new day!

This is probably my favorite flower, a camellia, right up there with a rose and violets.

Another camellia kissed by the rain.

A cap nap for our neighbor.

Just walking the neighborhood an playing with a new camera. This will be fun.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Mongolian Beef from George

Did we have a great dinner tonight! George from "A nod is as good as a wink to a blind horse" posted his Mongolian Beef recipe this week. Immediately, the Trout and I knew we would have to try this.

We have prepared many meals in a wok, but this recipe is such a keeper!! It takes the zest of a tangerine and the juice of one and that made all the difference. A perfect combination of oyster sauce, hoison sauce, garlic...well, I could go on for a long time. For a side, we had Chuka soba noodles which was perfect with the wonderful sauce that accompanied the beef.

I am going to refer you to George's blog for the recipe, because I want you to see more than this recipe. He has a fantastic food blog and is very knowledgeable. Have no doubt. This is a must try recipe.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Our French businesses

Just thought I'd share some pictures of the 'shops' we 'own' in France. Aren't these delightful? They are two of my favorite things, gifts from The Trout!!

The artist is Marilyn Bast Dunlap.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine Dinner

We had a very nice Valentine's Day dinner. A beautiful grilled porterhouse steak and favorite salad, Caramelized Pancetta and Fennel Salad recipe courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis. You can find the recipe and my older blog here.

Every time we make this salad, I like it more and more. In fact, we doubled the recipe today because the caramelized fennel is so great left over. We did use pancetta today and it really is much better than bacon.

I have a few fresh Florida strawberries that I dipped in chocolate for dessert. The sun is shining, it is getting somewhat warmer and all is good. Happy Valentine's Day to all.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Do you cocorico?

For several years now, we have owned a cocorico roaster that we purchased from NapaStyle, Michael Chiarello's catalog. We have enjoyed watching his cooking show on television. We have used it several times with mixed emotions.

Directions state that the bird should sit in the roaster with drumsticks up. This just seemed rather awkward, not only for us positioning the bird, but also for the bird. So we usually put the bird on the roaster with the drumsticks down, like popular beer can style roasting.

Yesterday we tried once again with the drumsticks up. The bird roasts beautifully. We had some onions and a whole head of garlic roasting around the bottom with rosemary and garlic stuffed in the cavity.

I like the fact that the bird is not 'sitting' in the drippings as it roasts, but I certainly don't find this roaster a necessity. I'm curious if anyone has a cocorico roaster and if there are other experimental roasting this could be used for. Hmm...looks like a sombrero to me.

Friday, February 12, 2010

France planning and such

The above gite is near Carennac in the Lot region. This is a converted barn.

This is one of two gites in the Dordogne converted from a farmhouse, near Sarlat.

I have been at a standstill this week. Just can't think of what to post. The main reason is that things are a little boring right now around here. The weather is horrible for Florida standards, we are still working on getting the weight down so any kitchen work has become boring.

Looking forward to the winter Olympics and getting to know Canada a little better. We spent some time in Vancouver a few years ago. It is a beautiful city. Stayed at what was called a Bed and Breakfast on Vancouver Island. Of course, the area around us was gorgeous, but it was our very early days of researching bed and breakfasts and the 'room' we reserved was a bed in the laundry room of a house. I believe it was just a 2 night stay. The lady of the house made us a nice breakfast, but after this we really worked on our research a little more.

Our plans for our late April trip to Europe are just about complete. Only one decision needs to be made (take train or plane) back to Paris from Lyon for the trip home. This will be our sixth trip to France since 2001. We did make a short trip into Alsace-Lorraine in 1981 when we had our daughters with us and again in 1991. It is a favorite area for us.

Our first trip was a week in Paris in 2001. In 2005 we went to Burgundy and Provence. Wanting to see more of this wonderful country we were growing to love, in 2006 we were located in the Loire Valley and Normandy. In 2007, it was the Dordogne and Languedoc area. The Dordogne was a favorite so the next year we went back to the Dordogne and the Lot area. This year we will be in the Alsace-Lorraine area, skip into the Black Forest of Germany for a short visit, and then into central France, to the Auvergne region.

Each trip is planned around the wine and food and the beautiful scenery available to us. We totally submerge ourselves into living French. We rent gites, which are small apartments or homes or for a short visit, we stay in bed and breakfasts. So many wonderful places are available (44,000 in France alone) and the Trout is my researcher into possibilities in the areas where we are going and then we settle on a favorite.

I have mentioned in the early days of my blog that we lived in Heidelberg, Germany, in 1968-69 when the Trout was in the American Army. We learned to live like Europeans and eat like Europeans and it was a life changing experience for us. We learned to enjoy wine and fine food and the importance of walking (lots of walking on cobblestone streets).

So 10 more weeks of careful planning ahead. We travel very, very light. Lots of hand washing and we usually are fortunate enough to have a washer in our apartment. I am still learning how a French washer works. It takes a long time to do a load of wash. Like half a day. Translating temperatures from Celsius into Fahrenheit and then all the slots for soap, softener, bleach, etc. And because the loads take so long, I do try to mix lots of clothes together. I remember one year in the Lot, one of the Trout's navy blue socks mistakenly slipped into a load of white things... like my underwear. I ended up with navy blue everything. Very fashionable, I'm sure!!

So have a good weekend. Kiss your Valentine!!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

German Dinner

Does it happen to you like it does to me? Every once in a while, you need to eat a "home-cooked" meal like mom used to cook. Since we tightened our belts the beginning of the year and cut down on a lot of eating, the only thought that kept running through my mind was, "I want to eat German!"

Well, since we are home today without any Super Bowl partying, I thought this day was perfect. But, where were you? We had more than enough and it tasted so wonderful. Yes, we ate too much, but gosh, it tasted so great.

I was encouraged by Debby of Feast for the Eyes into making a pork roast with caramelized onions. I had never copied down the family recipe, so I used Debby's recipe and it was right on!!

We also had German Red Cabbage which I posted before here, and in addition I made Spaetzle.


3 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
3 eggs, beaten

Mix this dough together and let sit for an hour or so. Boil 3-4 quarts of salted water. A spaetzle maker is the best tool to use, but if you do not have one, as you tip the bowl and let the dough slowly drop from the edge, cut the dough into small pieces and let drop into the boiling water.

Let the dumplings boil 2 to 3 minutes and they will rise to the top of the water. Remove with a wire skimmer and drain. Put in a serving dish and top with browned bread crumbs.

We always browned 4 tablespoons butter and added 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs and browned slowly. This was then placed on top of the spaetzle for a typical German garnish.

So, yes, we have left-overs, but won't they taste good? The rest of the week will be "slim pickin's" around here, but himmel, bimmel, it tasted so good today.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

French Bread

I made French Bread. I have avoided this pleasant task for quite a while, because the Trout and I usually cannot eat a small amount. We love crusty bread and this bread was no exception.

For years I have made baguettes from a recipe I got a long time ago from Williams-Sonoma. This recipe always pleased and the wine group we belonged to in Wisconsin always had French bread when we were tasting wine at our house.

Today I tried a new recipe and technique and I really like it. Thibeault's Table is a blog by Ann. She has the best recipes, many which we have tried, but she is one fantastic bread baker. So today, I made her French bread using her recipe from Julia Child.

The bread has a thick, crust and crackles when you cut into it. This is the way bread should be. You know the kind. The kind of bread that scratches the roof of your mouth because the crust is so crackly. Just love it.

Ann has perfect directions. I had never used my food processor for making the dough, but was pleased at how well it worked.

Check out Ann's blog and try to make this yourself.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Prairie Home Companion

Last night the Trout and I went to our local movie theater to see a live performance of Prairie Home Companion starring Garrison Keillor. Our connection to Garrison and Prairie Home goes back to 1981 when we were living in Wisconsin.

A new friend told us about his habit of listening to Prairie Home Companion on Public Radio every Saturday night for 2 hours. We turned the radio on one Saturday night while we were preparing dinner and we were hooked. That makes this our 29th year of listening to this storyteller.

In the early years, we used to drive to St. Paul which was only about an hour or so from our home, and would watch him live when he used to broadcast in a St. Paul park and then later in a theater in St. Paul. Even our daughters tolerated our Saturday nights with the radio on.

Garrison is a brilliant storyteller. His stories take place in Lake Wobegon in Minnesota. He has characters that live in this make-believe town that come from a Norwegian background. He talks about the Norwegian bachelor farmers and the Trout can so relate to this. He had these same Norwegian bachelor uncles and they had the same habits. We have laughed ourselves to tears and cried along with his tales.

Last night, in the movie theater, we were not surprised at the age of the patrons. They all knew this man with his wonderful sense of humor and I am sure they also have been following him for years. Elvis Costello was a guest last night and his song writing, singing and performance was top notch.

Several years ago Garrison made a movie of the Prairie Home Companion starring Meryl Streep and Kevin Klein. Of course, we saw that also. We had a very enjoyable evening and I hope some of you are Prairie Home Companion enthusiasts also.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

My Oma and me

This is a picture of my favorite grandmother, Oma Susanna. I was named after her and had the fortune of living in the same house with her and Opa until their deaths. She was a beautiful woman, a talented cook, baker, and a beautiful knitter. She taught me much including how to knit, but the most important talent I still use to this day was how to hold a paring knife in my hand and cut thin slices of vegetables by letting the knife 'hit' my thumb and not cut through my skin. I can do it quickly and use it instead of a cutting board. It seems silly, but I learned this from her and it still is a very useful trick to this day.

This picture was taken shortly after my grandmother's 65th birthday. She was attending the wedding of a granddaughter. It is 1954. When I realized her age in this picture recently, I was taken by surprise. Today is my 65th birthday. I have aged, but not quite like she did.

She did not have a hard life. She had a beautiful home, modern conveniences for the day, running water, electricity, even a phone by this time and a television. Another generation will pass, and someday my granddaughter, Rachel, will find a picture of me at age 65 and think the same thoughts.