Monday, October 15, 2012

Little French Gougères

When I saw my friend, Chris, post these delectable morsels on her blog The Cafe Sucre Farine, I knew I had to try them.  She had been cooking and baking French for a few days in preparation for her week, starting today, at the Culinary Institute of America in New York.  Be sure you flip over to her blog and read all about it, because she will be blogging all week about her journey.

I had all the ingredients on hand for the gougères except for the Gruyere cheese.  After a quick trip to the grocer, these little puffs were ready for afternoon cocktails.  I enjoy making the pâte à choux dough because it is simple and so versatile.  Cut open and stuff with vanilla custard, ice cream or make them more savory stuffed with ham salad or tuna or crab salad.  But a simple, airy puff with delicious cheese in the dough is perfect for a glass of wine or an afternoon martini.

If you don't know, Chris, run over there right now and copy her recipe.  I followed it exactly and I want you to be sure to bookmark it as she spends her week in school, cooking French.

Chris was baking these in preparation for her French cooking class this week.  I was baking them in preparation for our trip to France which starts on Thursday.  À bientôt.  We'll be back after election day.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Hankie or no hankie

While in my closet the other day, I came upon a small box that made me smile.  I knew exactly what was in the box though I had not opened it in several years.  The memories go back to the 1950's.

When I was growing up, it was traditional to be recognized on your birthday not only by family members, but friends of my parents.  Pretty typical was a card with an enclosed handkerchief.  Sometimes just a handkerchief without a card.  I do not know when or why this started, but I do remember elderly ladies (about my age now) would always carry a handkerchief when in public.  Perhaps to stifle a sniffle, catch an unexpected tear, or just to be holding onto something.

I remember my mother-in-law would always have a handkerchief in her hand when she was expecting visitors.  My grandmother would spend a lot of time crocheting edging onto a linen handkerchief for gifts.  I feel fortunate I still have several of those.

So it was no surprise when I opened this box and found 35 memories from my childhood.  In "those" days, Kleenex had not been invented yet.  If they had, they certainly didn't make it to small town Iowa.  I honestly do not know where I would even go today to find a store that carried ladies handkerchiefs.  Of course, it is very easy to find men's handkerchiefs.  It also is pretty typical for a man to carry a cloth handkerchief in his back pocket.  So what happened to the ladies?

I remember being in Brussels, Belgium, many years ago, on a search for Belgium lace on beautiful handkerchiefs.  I bought three at the time.  One for me and one for each of my daughters.  I remember the first daughter that got married carried this handkerchief on her wedding day.  It was so hot for this outside wedding, she handed it to the minister to wipe his brow and it was gone forever.  I do not know if my other daughter still has hers, but I do know that mine also disappeared somewhere.  sigh....

The females I know stuff their pockets with those disgusting tissues that always seem to be forgotten in pockets and go through the laundry and end up making a mess in the dryer.  I think I would actually enjoy getting out my iron and giving these beautiful little memories a quick press after going through the washing machine.  Now the decision.  Should I start carrying these little treasures or just stay with the Kleenex?  What would you do or what do you use for those unexpected tears?

And yes, I honestly do believe that all 35 of these handkerchiefs have never been washed or used.  They have permanent creases which  60 years can do to anyone.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Tuscan Shrimp and White Beans

We found another shrimp recipe that we like a lot.  I love white beans such as Cannelloni, so this combination worked out just fine.  We did halve the recipe for the two of us, but next time I think I will not because I am sure the leftovers would taste just as good.

Tuscan Shrimp with White Beans
recipe courtesy of Michael Chiarello

3 cups canned Cannelloni beans
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
16 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 small serrano chile, thinly slice, or 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
1 cup peeled, seeded and diced fresh tomato, canned or fresh
1 cup whole basil leaves
1 tablespoon lemon juice
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped

Drain the beans over a bowl and reserve the liquid.  Put the while beans in a large skillet with just enough of their liquid to moisten them.  Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and bring the beans to a low simmer.  Keep them warm while you prepare the shrimp.

Heat 1/4 cup oil in a large skillet over high heat.  Add the shrimp, season with salt and cook for 1 minute, tossing frequently.  Remove the shrimp with tongs to a bowl.  Add the garlic to the pan and saute until the garlic browns.  Add the chile or chili flakes and cook for 1 minute.  Add the tomato and basil and stir briefly.  Then add the lemon juice.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook for about 1 minute and then stir in the shrimp.  Toss well and cook briefly to reheat the shrimp.

Spoon the white beans on a platter for individual plates.  Drizzle with olive oil and top with the shrimp.  Serve warm.  Serves 4

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Home Again and Craving Shrimp Cakes

Long time no posting and since I have gotten out of the rhythm of doing it regularly, I am now overwhelmed at how confusing the whole process can be.  This is not good.  I also think the relationship between the camera and the computer might not be going as smoothly as it should.   I will go on and keep cool about it all.

We are back home in Florida after a good summer out West and visiting with our children.  In three months, we drove 12,000 miles.  Yes, that number is right.  It turns out to be 3000 miles each way and 6000 miles while we were in Montana.  Nothing out there is "nearby".

We spent most of 3 months in our travel trailer parked in the prettiest place in Montana, with the greatest of friends right next door.  It was a test--if we could do it and if we would like it.  With the good help of another Montana friend, we had a new mattress made for the bed in the trailer and that solved a lot of problems.

We made it through a small hail storm, (think tin can), through a lot of heat, (think A/C), and toward the end if was getting a little cold at night, (think space heater and trailer furnace).  And, we are still talking to each other because with the slide-out, we really did have quite a bit of room.  I do enjoy a shower without hitting my elbows though.  The trailer is now being stored in Montana for our return.  We will be back.

So, after getting home  and restocking the refrigerator, one of the first places we went was to our local fish store.  We like to get the shrimp fresh (I know, they probably were frozen at some point) and enjoyed eating these shrimp cakes.

In Montana we had dinner with friends at a great restaurant in Twin Bridges.  The Trout had shrimp cakes and I started thinking about how we could fix this at home.  Then, within a week, Framed Cooks posted her recipe for shrimp cakes.  She used raw shrimp and another recipe I found used cooked shrimp.  Hmmm..which to choose.  We both voiced our opinions and decided that the cooked shrimp recipe might be too "tough" whereas the raw shrimp might be just right.  I think we chose the right recipe, because they were excellent.  Very easy also.  We will make this recipe again and will substitute crab meat for the shrimp someday.

Along side we had just a few scallops sauteed in butter and garlic and our favorite salad dressing, Pacific Rim, on Romaine lettuce.  We kept some of the dressing aside to drizzle on the shrimp cakes and it was perfect.

Crispy Shrimp Cakes
  from Framed Cooks

1 pound finely chopped peeled and deveined shrimp
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
1 egg
1 tablespoon chives (we also added some tarragon since it was growing out of control when we got back)
1 tablespoon horseradish
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

Combine all ingredients except the oil and form into patties.  Will makes 6-8 patties.  They will be soft and loose, but chill for 30 minutes on a plate in the refrigerator and they will be just fine.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add patties to skillet (transfer from plate to skillet with a spatula)  Easy.

Fry each side until golden brown, about 3-5 minutes per side.

I forgot to add that we simply put the raw shrimp into the small 3 cup food processor we have and it only took about 8 or 9 pulses and the consistency was perfect.