Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Lemon scones

I am not British.  I have never participated in afternoon tea with a real Brit.  I would love to.  Please invite me to tea.  I'd even wear a hat, if you wanted me to, although I am not a hat person.  I would do that just for you.  I think that scones play a part in that ritual.  Oui?  I just love them.  I will eat them any time of the day (or night).  I have had some that are too dry.  Heck, I am sure that some I've turned out of my own kitchen are too dry.  But a nice warm, soft scone, right out of the oven with a cup of coffee or hot tea?  Oh là là.  That would be another item for sale in my (imaginary) American Bakery in Paris (or Provence or wherever).
Here's the latest recipe.

Lemon Scones
Traditions Inn, Columbus, Nebraska
Pat and Scott Mueller, owners

2 c. flour
1/3 c. sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
Dash of cinnamon
1 Tbsp. fresh grated ginger OR 1 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/3 c. butter
3/4 c. buttermilk
Zest of one lemon
1/3 c. lemon curd
Demerara cane sugar (natural brown cane sugar)

In a medium bowl, mix flour, 1/4 c. sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and ginger, if using dry.  Using a pastry blender, cut in cold butter until it is the size of small peas.  Set aside.  In a separate bowl, stir together buttermilk, ginger (if using fresh) and lemon zest.  Add to flour mixture.  Stir until just moistened and dough forms a ball.
Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and sprinkle a little sugar over the flour.  Knead dough by gently turning and pressing with the palm of your hand 10-12 times.  Divide dough in half.  Pat or gently roll each piece into an 8-inch circle.  Place one circle on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Spread with lemon curd, keeping curd about three-fourths of an inch away from the edge of the dough.  Top with second circle of dough.  Pinch edges to seal.  Sprinkle top with demerara sugar.  Bake at 375˚F for 25-30 minutes.  Cut into wedges and serve warm with jam, fresh berries, Devonshire cream or honey butter.

Have a cup of tea ready!  I take mine with a little honey and milk.

Bon appétit, les citrons!

Durham Herald-Sun Student U and Durham Catering Company

(Grrr... blogspot is acting up again with adding photos... imagine a plate of pasta, chicken, sundried tomatoes, and asparagus covered in alfredo sauce, with fruit salad on the side... the photo will show up on the newspaper page.)

Here is my latest!  I love the research I get to do!

A Delicious Partnership

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Sunday summer lunch

Saturday morning I had the most food-related fun I can remember in a while.  The Ex-Ex and I headed out to the Durham Farmers Market with a plan.  Lots of times we just roam around, but this time we had a purpose.  We were going to his parents' house in Washington, NC, the original Washington, a lovely little town on the Pamlico River, and make lunch for them the next day.  I had some vague ideas about what I wanted to make but needed to see what was for sale.  The seasonal approach, something I learned while living in Provence.
The word victuals just popped into my head, for some reason.  Do you know that word?  Have you ever watched The Beverly Hillbillies?  That word came out of Granny or Jed's mouth, I am sure.  Or was it Jethro or Ellie May?  Doesn't matter.  I have compared my family to the Clampetts more than once over the years... only we were not nouveau riche because we did not find "Texas tea" while out shooting at some food (listen to the theme song and sing along, if you wish) on our property nor did we load up the truck and move to Bever-ly.  Anyway, I googled victual.  Turns out its first known use was in the 15th century, coming to Middle English from Middle French, from Latin (as does at least 60% of our vocabulary, thanks to William the Conqueror- I will save that lesson for another day, though).  Victualis: nourishment, victualia: provisions, victus: way of living, vivere: to live.  Victuals: food or provisions, typically as prepared for consumption, according to Merriam Webster.  But I draw the line at the pronunciation given.   I have never heard it pronounced so that it rhymes with brittle or whittle.  No way.  Vic-chew-ul in the mountains and on The Hillbillies.
But I digress.  Back to the market. Revenons à nos moutons, as the French say.  Let's come back to our sheep.  (This expression comes from a French 15th century play, author unknown, called La Farce de Maître Pathelin.  I seem to be a font of knowledge today, don't I?)

It was a lovely morning, lots of vendors, lots of shoppers, Andy Magowan of Geer Street Garden, cooking up delicious smells as Chef at the Market.  We made our usual first round, checking things out, before deciding what to buy.  I wanted as much as possible to come from the market.
Honey fig goat cheese spread from Elodie Farms was a must.  My father-in-law tasted it for the first time at Thanksgiving and loved it.
Next, tomatoes and basil for a salad.  Flat River Nursery came to the rescue.
Trop belle et trop bonne, cette salade, n'est-ce pas?  A little sea salt sprinkled on, some good olive oil drizzled all over.
Roasted new potatoes with rosemary (from my garden).  Potatoes cut in half, arranged in baking dish, dotted with butter, sprinkled with sea salt, a few sprigs of fresh rosemary on top, baked at 375˚F for about 20 minutes or until potatoes test done.
We bought two eggplant from Brinkley Farms
I sliced them in thin rounds, covered them with milk and let them sit in the refrigerator overnight.  I took them out of the milk, breaded them with cornmeal, and fried them in hot olive oil.  I sprinkled a little sea salt on them after taking them out of the oil and placing them on paper towels to drain.

And, when feeding hungry mid-Westerners, there must be meat.  Sausage from Fickle Creek Farm won.  And I can't wait to tell Noah that it was a huge hit.  We grilled it on a great little truc that mother-in-law gave father-in-law for Christmas.  A Cuisinart griddler.
This lovely little appliance would be so much easier to use and clean than the cast iron truc that I put on top of the gas burners on my stove...
Father-in-law had bought bread from a local baker (really good) and I made brioche buns from a recipe in Edible Piedmont, a great little magazine I picked up at the market.  They didn't rise the way they should have.  I plan to try again tonight.  I doubled the recipe and will not do that this time.  Too much butter, I think.  It reminded me of my first days in Arles when I was determined to master orange brioche for some bizarre, still inexplicable reason.
Dessert came in the form of a peach cake made from a recipe I found in Nebraska magazine.   Sister-in-law made it while we were visiting her.  She adapted it from a strawberry-rhubarb recipe.  I decided to make this cake when I spotted the Kalawi peach stand.  They are featured in the July edition of Our State magazine.  (This month's cover, with a photo of one of their peaches, is stunning.)  So, a sort of dessert marriage was born between Nebraska and North Carolina, very apropos (being at once opportune and to the point-- a great word!), considering that four of Sunday's diners grew up in Nebraska and two in North Carolina, the families joined in 1982.  The cake was very good and even better with a little vanilla ice cream on the side!
It was very rewarding for me, as the cooker, to prepare lunch for my assembled family of eaters.  I hope to do it again soon.

Fresh Peach Coffee Cake
(adapted from a recipe by Allan and Cher Maybee of Barn A New Bed and Breakfast Scottsbluff, Nebraska)

serves 8-10

1/3 c. butter, room temperature
1 c. sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 c. flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. half and half
2 1/2 c. fresh peaches, peeled, quartered, and cut into chunks*

3/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. butter
1 Tbsp. cinnamon**

To make the batter, cream butter and sugar, add vanilla and egg, and beat well.  In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt.  Add to creamed mixture alternately with half and half.  Pour into 9x13-inch dish.  Spoon in peaches.
To make the topping, combine ingredients and sprinkle on top of batter.
Bake at 350˚F for 45-55 minutes.

*The original recipe calls for 1 c. strawberries and 1 1/2 c. rhubarb instead of the peaches.
**Chili powder is used in place of cinnamon.  According to the Maybees, this was a mistake the first time, but tasted good so they kept it!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Deer roping

When most of us think of deer, a serene image such as this one comes to mind, right?  And thoughts of little Bambi frolicking with Thumper.  I have blogged once before about deer, a story told by a wineseller in Châteauneuf-du-Pape (if I could find the post I would link it... I have to figure out how to find things more easily).  This story was passed on to me by my mother-in-law.  She found it in a newspaper from Nebraska, I think.  Who knows if it is true or not and really, who cares?  It's funny and well worth the few minutes it takes to read it.  I've never considered roping anything, much less a deer, but I can imagine some man thinking that this is a good idea...  not my father-in-law, though.

Read This Before You Go Deer Roping
By Les Ohlhauser, OWTR Announcer

     I had this idea that I could rope a deer, put it in a stall, feed it up on corn for a couple of weeks, then kill it and eat it.  The first step in this adventure was getting a deer.  I figured that, since they congregate at my cattle feeder and do not seem to have much fear of me when we are there (a bold one will sometimes come right up and sniff at the bags of feed while I am in the back of the truck not 4 feet away), it should not be difficult to rope one, get up to it and toss a bag over its head (to calm it down) then hog tie it and transport it home.
     I was standing in the vet shed in the feedlot when I got this brilliant idea.  Looking down the feed bunk rows I noticed several deer standing at the end of the row.  The lights went on in my head, low wattage after what was about to happen.
     I filled the cattle feeder then hid down at the end with my rope.  The cattle, having seen the roping thing before, stayed well back.  They were not having any of it.  After about 20 minutes, my deer showed up- 3 of them.  I picked out a likely looking one, stepped out from the end of the feeder, and threw my rope.  The deer just stood there and stared at me.  I wrapped the rope around my waist and twisted the end so I would have a good hold.
     The deer still just stood and stared at me, but you could tell it was mildly concerned about the whole rope situation.  I took a step towards it, it took a step away.  I put a little tension on the rope and then received an education.  The first thing I learned is that, while a deer may just stand there looking at you funny while you rope it, they are spurred to action when you start pulling on that rope.
     That deer EXPLODED.  The second thing I learned is that pound for pound, a deer is a LOT stronger than a cow or a colt.  A cow or a colt in that weight range I could fight down with a rope and with some dignity.  A deer-- no chance.  That thing ran, bucked, twisted, and pulled.  There was no controlling it and certainly no getting close to it.  As it jerked me off my feet and started dragging me across the ground, it occurred to me that having a deer on a rope was not nearly as good an idea as I had originally imagined.  The only upside is that they do not have as much stamina as many other animals.  My Carhartt coat was not as durable as they advertise it to be made out to be.
    A brief 10 minutes later, it was tired and not nearly as quick to jerk me off my feet and drag me when I managed to get up.  It took me a few minutes to realize this, since I was mostly blinded by the blood flowing out of the big gash in my head.  At that point, I had lost my taste for corn-fed venison, I just wanted to get that devil creature off the end of that rope.
    I figured if I just let it go with the rope hanging around its neck, it would likely die slow and painfully somewhere.  At the time, there was no love at all between that deer and me, at the moment, I hated the thing, and I would venture a guess that the feeling was mutual.  Despite the gash in my head and the several large knots where I had cleverly arrested the deer's momentum by bracing my head against various large rocks and frozen cow turds as it dragged me across the ground, I could still think clearly enough to recognize that there was a small chance that I shared some tiny amount of responsibility for the situation we were in.  I didn't want the deer to have to suffer a slow death, so I managed to get it lined back up in between my truck and the feeder-- a little trap I had set before hand... kind of like a squeeze chute.  I got it to back in there and I started moving up so I could get my rope back.
     Did you know that deer bite?  They do!  I never in a million years would have thought that a deer would bite somebody, so I was very surprised when I reached up there to grab that rope and the deer grabbed hold of my wrist.  Now, when a deer bites you, it is not like being bit by a horse where they just bite you and then let go.  A deer bites you and shakes its head-- almost like a pit bull.  The bite HARD and it hurts.  The proper thing to do when a deer bites you is probably to freeze and draw back slowly.  I tried screaming and shaking instead.  My method was ineffective.
     It seems like the deer was biting and shaking for several minutes, but it was likely only several seconds.  I, being smarter than a deer (although you may be questioning that claim by now), tricked it.  While I kept busy tearing the tendons out of my right arm, I reached up with my left hand and pulled that rope loose.
     That was when I got my final lesson in deer behavior for the day.  Deer will strike at you with their front feet.  They rear right up on their back feet and strike right about head and shoulder level, and their hooves are surprisingly sharp.  I learned a long time ago that, when an animal-- like a horse-- strikes at you with their hooves and you can't get away easily, the best thinkg to do is try to make a loud noise and maek an aggressive move towards the animal.  This will usually cause them to back down a bit so you can escape.
     This was not a horse.  This was a deer, so obviously, such trickery would not work.  In the course of a millisecond, I devised a different strategy.  I screamed like a woman and tried to turn and run.  The reason I had always been told NOT to try to turn and run from a horse that paws at you is that there is a good chance that it will hit you in the back of the head.  Deer may not be so different from horses after all, besides being twice as strong and 3 times as evil, because the second I turned to run, it hit me in the back of the head and knocked me down.
     Now, when a deer paws at you and knocks you down, it does not immediately leave.  I suspect it does not recognize that the danger has passed.  What they do instead is paw your back and jump up and down on you while you are laying there crying like a little girl and covering your head.  I finally managed to crawl under the truck and the deer went away.  So now I know why when people go deer hunting they bring a rifle with a scope to sort of even the odds.

Bon appétit, Bambi!

Friday, June 24, 2011

14 Things That Make Me Happy

Why 14?  Good question.  I really don't know.  I wasn't a high school or college athlete who wore jersey #14.  I wasn't born on the 14th.  I just like the number.  As a mother, I've been known to say "If I've told you once, I've told you 14 times!"  "For the 14th time, will you please straighten up your room?" "You've asked me that question 14 times and the answer is still no."  The Ex-Ex thinks 14 is too many.  He wanted me to change the number.  Said it was too ambitious.  I can't do that.  You can't just change something because it is a little (or a lot) difficult.  But he and I are coming to this list-making from different angles.  I think that making a happy list is not that hard.  His list-making runs along the lines of 14 Things That Didn't Go Wrong Today.  Oh well.  Funny how we are all born with a certain personality type, isn't it?

This list is in no particular order and doesn't include anything deep or really maternal.  Just random things I've thought of that I like.  I am also sure that it isn't complete and that as soon as I hit the publish post button, I will think of more.  (The Ex-Ex, however, came up with only 13... and no, I will not finish it or put words in his mouth.  Nope, no way.  Not me.)

The Sabbatical Chef's List

1.  Lavender
2.  Going to the beach with my family in the summer
3.  Really good, hot coffee with just the right amount of half and half
4.  A good wine glass-- Riedel or Spiegelau (thin rims, just the right weight)
5.  Getting a letter or package in the mail from a friend or family member
6.  The Eiffel Tower anytime, but especially when it sparkles at night
7.  A comfortable pair of jeans
8.  Planning my next trip to France
9.  Sugar maple trees in the fall
10. Making something for dinner that my family really likes
11. Hearing a great song on the radio that makes me sing out loud and not care who sees or hears me
12. Soft brie cheese on warm French bread
13. Baking in my kitchen early on Sunday mornings when the house is quiet and everyone else is still sleeping
14. Ripe cherries

The Ex-Ex's List

1.  Hearing my all-time favorite song on the radio when I was not expecting to
2.  An unexpected professional compliment
3.  The anticipation of going to the beach with my family
4.  An unexpected, unsolicited compliment about one of my kids
5.  Seeing my favorite team win (Nebraska football, Durham Academy anything)
6.  A good drink with good company (a bad drink with good company is better than a good drink with bad company)
7.  A good road trip with my wife
8.  Kicking my son's butt in boules at the beach-- in a fun way, of course
9.  A cool summer morning
10. A warm, sunny winter day
11. A neat kitchen counter
12. Finishing a good crossword puzzle
13. Looking at old photos of my kids

Elmo's Cherry Cobbler  from Elmo's Diner, Durham, NC
(serves 12)

For the fruit:
2 1/2 - 3 lbs of cherries, pitted  (if using frozen, defrost and drain)
3 Tbsp. sugar

For the topping:
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
2 large eggs, beaten

To finish the topping:
10 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
4 tsp. sugar
1 1/4 tsp. cinnamon

Thoroughly drain the fruit in a strainer.  Blend the fruit with the sugar (3 Tbsp.) and spread evenly over the bottom of a 9x12x2-inch baking pan.  Blend the flour, sugar (1 1/2 c.), baking powder and salt.  With your fingers, work the eggs into the flour and blend until you have achieved a moist and pebbly crumb (aim for blueberry and cherry-size chunks).  Spread the topping evenly and lightly over the fruit.  Drizzle the butter evenly over the topping.  Blend the cinnamon and the sugar (4 tsp.) and sprinkle evenly over the butter.  Bake uncovered at 375˚F for 35-45 minutes or until the topping is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling at the edges of the pan (baking time will depend on pan and oven).

**Elmo's cobbler recipe is extremely forgiving.  Feel free to adjust the amount of fruit, the amount of sugar added to the fruit, the amount of melted butter drizzled on the topping and the amount of sugar and cinnamon sprinkled over the butter.
A 12-oz. bag of cherries yields about 11 oz. of drained fruit.  You will need 4-5 bags of cherries, depending on your preferred ratio of fruit to crust.
Cherries shed a good deal of moisture while baking.  Some love a cobbler that swims in its own soup, while others consider this soupiness a technical defect and eyesore.  To eliminate the soupiness, coat the cherries with 1-2 Tbsp. of flour before baking.  Two tablespoons of flour will produce a liquid-free, pudding-like consistency.
By all means, experiment with fresh fruit, keeping in mind that fresh fruit will be juicier than drained frozen fruit and may generate Campbell's level of soupiness.  Especially if using fresh cherries or blueberries, you may want to stew and drain the fruit before adding it to the cobbler.  Alternately, you may blend the fruit with flour to absorb the excess moisture.  If using apples, choose a tart, firm apple, like Granny Smith.  To make the other cobblers in Elmo's repertoire, simply substitute one fruit for another without adjusting the recipe otherwise.  One exception:  if using blackberries, which tend to be tart, add 4 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. of sugar to the fruit instead of 3 Tbsp.
Serve warm from the oven or reheated by microwave.  The crust loses some of its crunch this way but assumes an appealing cakey quality.
For the full cobbler experience, spoon into deep bowls and top with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream.

(This is a fun recipe to read.  I have no idea who wrote it out for Elmo's, but I like the style!)

Bon appétit, happiness!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Une femme d'un certain âge

I've used this expression before on the blog.  A woman of a certain age.  It just sounds so much nicer than middle-aged.  Maybe I am more vain than I think.  So where am I going with this and what does it have to do with Ernest Hemingway, you ask?  I just discovered a blog named A femme d'un certain age.  Such style.  Such interesting reading.  I can't wait to read more.  Quite a coincidence that the first post I saw was about one of Hemingway's novels, A Moveable Feast.  I just finished The Sun Also Rises, a hand-me-down from high school grad son.  Seeing Midnight in Paris made me realize how little I know about him and how few of his novels I've read.

If you are a femme d'un certain âge, check out Tish's blog.  Or if you just love Paris and French style and French stuff.  Or if you enjoy living vicariously through others, particularly others who live in Paris.

Bon appétit, les femmes d'un certain âge!

Want to go for a ride?

Yeah, photos can now be posted again on blogger.  No skitches this time.  Instead this beautiful little Frenchie auto.  I'd love to take it and cruise along the backroads of Provence, a picnic basket and blanket in the back seat.  No particular destiny.  Brilliant blue skies overhead.  Cigales singing in the garrigue.  The warm smell of thyme growing wild, along with my beloved lavender.  Want to go along?  Here's what we will put in our panier.
Du pain--
Des cerises--
Du fromage--

Du melon--
Du saucisson--
 Du rosé--

Des macarons--

Beautiful scenery--

 And then back to my petit cabanon--
A little fantasy fun.

Bon appétit, les pique-niques!

Culinary Arts College- The Top 40 French Cooking Blogs

(At this moment I am frustrated because I can't add a photo... what's up with that, blogger??  I've been trying off and on for a couple of hours this morning.  So, I "skitched" myself.  Maybe I should stick to lavender...)

I discovered recently that The Sabbatical Chef is listed on a website for French cooking blogs.  Right up there with a few of my favorites.  I am very happy to have the list, too, so I can check them out.  I am amazed at how creative some folks are and how willing they are to share.  This should be a great incentive to keep blogging away.

This summer, since school ended, I am holding down the fort in our middle school office.   We have a new school director coming next month who will need help and right now our campus is filled with about 150 middle schoolers and teachers from Student U, an amazing program for Durham public school students.  I am having so much fun watching the teachers and students in action.  I am also shadowing three students who are preparing lunch for everyone.  They spend their mornings at Durham Catering Company, come here to serve and eat, then return to DCC to clean up and prep for the next day's lunch.  This is the first year of this partnership.  I am very impressed.  I am working on an article for the Durham Herald-Sun about it.  Just goes to show you what great things can happen when a community comes together to support the education of its youth.  Healthy living and eating is just one part of Student U.  I believe the plan is to make a cookbook with the recipes used.  Today's menu will feature grilled chicken in an Alfredo sauce (Chef Hugo knows how much kids love Alfredo-- my son could eat it every day) with sun-dried tomatoes and asparagus, fresh fruit salad, and cornbread.  Almost lunch time... j'ai faim!

Bon appétit, Student U chefs, Durham Catering Company, and Chef Hugo!