Sumptuous Chicken Shallot Stew

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Chicken Shallot Stew

Chicken Shallot Stew

I am in love with this chicken stew!   I started with Sam Sifton’s New York Times recipe which had been adapted from Andrew and Rishia Zimmern by way of Martha Stewart.  Just goes to show there is nothing new on the face of the planet recipe wise!  If you pass this on, you can add my name to the growing list!

When I stumbled upon the original New York Times recipe, I was immediately smitten.  ALL my favorite things – shallots, chicken thighs, tarragon, vermouth… easy instructions and simple to find ingredients. My tarragon growing outside needed culling too. Bingo!!

Fresh Tarragon From My Garden

Fresh Tarragon From My Garden

Of course, me being me, I made many changes along the way to streamline the cooking and preparation and ingredients.  I ultimately ended up doing this in my pressure cooker – I mean, a 12-minute cooking time just speaks to me.  I will include regular, or stovetop instructions for those of you tempted to stop reading when you see the words PRESSURE COOKER and who are not yet convinced that you absolutely must invest in one of these.  Sometimes I feel like I should be a representative for the pressure cooker industry… And hey, if you live in Seattle drop on by for a free demo!

This makes a really juicy, saucy stew.  I recently served it with a scoop of cooked, toasted barley seasoned with sauteed garlic scapes and yellow pepper.  It’s also great with brown rice, quinoa or any other whole grain or mashed vegetable you love to soak up the juices.  Oh, and a simple slice of hearty bread goes very nicely with this dish…


Chicken Shallot Stew

Makes 4 servings

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Ingredients
  • 6 large chicken thighs (bone in and skin on)
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 whole very large shallots, peeled  (about one pound)
  • 1 cup extra dry vermouth or leftover white wine.  I always have vermouth in my fridge for cooking purposes (see note if you are not making this in a pressure cooker)
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (see note if making stovetop)
  • 3 whole sprigs fresh tarragon
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
Instructions for pressure cooker preparation

Trim off the excess fat that hangs off the the chicken thighs but leave skin on the thigh. Pat the pieces dry and lay them on a clean dish towel. Combine  the flour, salt and pepper  on waxed paper and dip the skin side of the thighs into this mix so it is coated. Shake off the excess flour mix.

Heat a large (12-inch) sauté pan on medium high.  Once hot, pour the oil in until it is heated through.  Add the chicken thighs skin side down and cook until they becomes a little browned; turn them over with a tongs and brown the other side too.  All of this will take you around ten minutes.  Remove the thighs with tongs to a rimmed plate and set aside.

Add the peeled shallots directly to the sauté pan  (I did cut the huge ones in half so they weren’t the size of a small onion but they can be big since they basically smoosh anyway) and sauté them in the remaining chicken fat and until they begin to soften a titch, approximately five minutes. Put the shallots into the pressure cooker. Mix the wine and mustard together and pour in, followed by the tarragon sprigs and the chicken thighs. Cover the pressure cooker, bring to high pressure and cook for 12 minutes.  Manually bring the pressure down by putting the pressure cooker in the sink and running cold water over the lid. Remove the lid, fish out the tarragon pieces, and simmer to allow the sauce to reduce and thicken, 5-10 minutes.

Right before serving, add the cherry tomatoes to the pot, stir lightly to combine and serve immediately.

 

Instructions for traditional stovetop cooking

First, you will need two cups of vermouth and two tablespoons of Dijon.  Follow instructions above. But instead of using a pressure cooker, place everything into a heavy dutch oven and bring to a simmer.  Cover and braise for 30 minutes or until the meat is very tender.  Continue with the cooking methods.

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Note: I had two thighs and lots of juice left over that I poured over brown rice in a container and put into my freezer.  A month later it was defrosted and reheated and was better than ever – so next time I’m purposefully making a double batch of this recipe: one for the freezer and one to eat.

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Gigantic Frosted Sugar Cookies: The Experiment

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Sugary & Sparkley Cookies

Sugary & Sparkley Cookies

I am a chocolate girl all the way.  With the exception of fruit pies or crisps, I don’t care about sweets unless they contain dark chocolate.  So it was very out of character for me to find myself obsessed with the frosted sugar cookies I sampled at a coffee shop in West Liberty, Iowa.  In fact, whenever I visited Iowa I would drive the 17 or so miles for one of these cookies. The huge, soft, frosted discs tapped into the butter-sugar-sweet alter-ego of mine.  I asked for the recipe, and was told the owner made these and that the recipe was not to be shared with the patrons!

Determined to figure out how to create these sugary treats, I bought three of them – each frosted with pale blue buttercream and sprinkled with orange, granular sugar crystals. The first I immediately shared with my daughter.  I stashed the second one for dessert (to divide among the four of us).  As for the almighty third cookie… this one I carefully wrapped in a paper bag and brought to Rachel’s friend Amy, a former lawyer-turned-pastry chef.  She tasted the masterpiece and we discussed what ingredients should be included to replicate the flavor and texture.  We both agreed that the cookie contained both butter and shortening, vanilla (no almond flavoring) and all purpose flour.  The women surrounding us were astounded that we could be so involved with dissecting a mere cookie!  I surprised myself too — after all, sugar cookies aren’t usually something I crave.  Yet I became consumed with the desire to replicate them.  Luckily I had noted that the coffee shop kept these cookies pre-formed into flat disks and frozen.  And I spotted them being baked on a per need basis for 17 minutes.  I would have made a great spy.

The "Secret" Ingredients

The “Secret” Ingredients

Once home, I perused my sugar cookie recipes and immediately went to my favorite Cooks Illustrated recipe for chewy sugar cookies, made with a combination of melted butter and oil.  Because I didn’t want this cookie to be dense or crackly on top, I read about what makes cookies too flat.  I reduced the fat a bit and used soft butter and Crisco vegetable shortening.  I felt like homemaker June in “Leave it to Beaver.”   My inner pastry chef self knew that they should be baked at a low temperature, say 325 degrees, for optimum puffiness and less browning.

I mentally tweaked and tweaked the recipe, sent an email to Amy the baker and she told me, “Go for it and report back to me.”  The next day, I took out the ingredients and my trusty stand mixer and put on an apron just to feel like an honest-to-goodness kitchen goddess.   Rachel’s friend’s nine year old son Owen was over and he helped me bake.  I think he learned three things:

1)  How to “tare” a kitchen scale to measure ingredients

2)  How inventive the scraping blade for the mixer is for cookies

3)  Not to ever overmix the dough because it gets tough

4)  This I am adding, not one of the three… but he now knows how many ounces are in a cup.  “Eight is Great!”

Owen helped me mix the flour with the leavening, he turned the mixer on to the correct speed and licked the beater with both the frosting and the cookie dough.  After the dough chilled, he helped me weigh each ball of dough.  I patiently formed the 2 ½ ounce balls into flat disks and froze them, then baked four of them for 17 minutes.  Fresh out of the oven, I felt like I was a champion.  The cookies were domed, smooth and perfect.  Three minutes later they fell flat.  Urggggg!

Don't Forget to Freeze!

Don’t Forget to Freeze!

I still cooled and frosted them and took one to Baker Amy.  I am now happy enough with the buttery flavor, the sweet frosting and the huge chewy cookies that I feel like I don’t need to keep tweaking and baking batch after batch.  I’d rather concentrate on breads, salads and soups – my all time favorite things to cook.

My Sugar Cookie Experiment

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Ingredients
  • 2 ¼ cups flour  (11 ¼ oz*)
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • ¼ tsp table salt
  • 1½ cups granulated sugar  (10 ½ oz*)
  • 1 stick of salted butter
  • ½ cup Crisco
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 Tbsp milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

*Note: I did weigh the flour and the sugar but am including the amounts in case you don’t have a kitchen scale or feel the need to be uber precise.

Instructions:

Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Cream butter, Crisco and sugar really well – until creamed.  Add egg, milk and vanilla.  Finally add dry ingredients and don’t over mix.  Immediately refrigerate the dough until firm enough to form into smooth balls ( 1-2 hours).

Place the balls of dough onto a waxed paper-lined cookie sheet and  cover them with another sheet of waxed paper .   Flatten the balls with the bottom of a glass into disks that are 2 ½ ounces each – for a total of twelve.  My disks were about 2 ½ -3 inches in diameter and even thickness.  After they are solidly frozen on the cookie sheet, remove the frozen unbaked cookie discs and freeze them between sheets of waxed paper in a tupperware type pan.

To bake: Put four frozen cookie discs onto a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet.  I decided to only fit four per sheet to give them space to spread.

Place in a preheated 325 degree oven for 17 minutes or so on the middle rack.  Bake only one sheet at a time.  Finished cookies are five inch rounds and barely, barely brown.  Let them cool on the cookie sheet, then remove from sheet to rack after five minutes. Cool completely and frost.

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Frosting Ingredients
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 5 Tbsp. soft butter
  • Less than ¼ c milk
  • A few drops food coloring
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • Coarse colored sugar sprinkles
Instructions

Cream butter, add powdered sugar, then drizzle in milk and vanilla until spreading consistency.  I always remove some of this white colored frosting, then divide the remaining frosting into half and make two separate colors.  The extra frosting, by the way, freezes well! Just bring to room temperature before frosting the cookies.

Use a heaping tablespoon of frosting for each large cookie, and top the frosting with colored sugar.

Let’s be honest: any homemade cookie with buttercream icing and colorful sprinkles tastes great.  Store in sealed container and devour — they are so sweet you will definitely want some coffee, tea or a glass of milk.  I love baking them as needed rather than making an entire recipe worth of these huge cookies.

 

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Homemade Pancake & Waffle Mix

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Perfect Pancakes

Perfect Pancakes

My sister in law is always quick to tell you she doesn’t cook, but she doesn’t need to.  Her husband, my brother, is masterful in the kitchen and bakes cookies, cakes and desserts even more often than yours truly.  We all laugh because his wife does all the shopping and is the sous chef, but he gets the credit for the final product.

Shelli invited a few women to visit their mountain house for the weekend.  Everyone knows she doesn’t cook so she decided to surprise her friends with breakfast and wanted to know if I had a basic pancake recipe.

Of course I did!  She wowed everyone by making a batch of these pancakes, adding a lot of fresh blueberries to the batter and serving them with a side of chicken sausage.

Of course she can cook!!  And so can you… This is a beginner recipe that will delight just about anyone. And it’s a lovely waffle mix as well!

Homemade Pancake & Waffle Mix

Serves 4-6

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Dry Ingredients (can make ahead)-serves 6
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp soda
  • 2 pinches salt

When ready to make them, add the following to the dry ingredients:

Additional ingredients
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2/3 cup skim or 2% milk
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • Fresh berries (optional)
Instructions

Whisk together dry ingredients. If you want – you can keep this mixture in an airtight container or Ziploc bag which you can save for up to six months!

Add milk, oil and eggs to the dry mix and add more milk if you desire a thinner pancake. Add 3 cups blueberries or blackberries if they are in season and you are a berry lover.

Heat a skillet or griddle until hot, wipe with some oil and let that heat then ladle large or small pancakes onto the skillet.  Once a lot of bubbles form, flip the pancakes gently and let them continue cooking on the second side for two minutes or until finished.

Once cooked, I usually keep there on a plate covered with foil or in a 300 degree oven for a few minutes.

Serve with fresh pure maple syrup, berries and yogurt or homemade jam and butter.

If you have a small household, you can make half this recipe-around 12- 3 inch wide pancakes.

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My Global Travel – My Favorite Travel Must Haves

One Of My Favorite Travel Photos - Wayne & I at Machu Pichu - December 2004

One Of My Favorite Travel Photos – Wayne & I At Machu Pichu – December 2004

I’ve been on the move and traveling even more than I usually do – which, you might imagine – is insane.  Sometimes I wake up and have no clue where I am — and it takes me a few minutes to get oriented.  In my Seattle bedroom?  In Belize? (Both bedrooms have ceiling fans and windows in the same place)  In Iowa? San Francisco?  In the last four weeks, I have returned from Belize, gone to San Francisco to see my two grandkids, flown to see my daughter and her family and help move them  to their new Denver digs, and now I’m headed to Palm Springs next week (where it’s 100 plus degrees!) to help my elderly mother-in-law.  It’s a bit much, and way too many planes and subsequent flight delays and airport aggravation.

I have my carry-on roller suitcase and backpack standing in the corner of my bedroom, and I keep packing and unpacking in these same containers.  The backpack is always preloaded with my noise canceling headphones, a warm scarf or knitted cowl neck warmer, and my back cushion.  My travel outfit is the same and therefore requires no thought on my part: a comfy and loose pair of pants with a pocket for my driver’s license and phone, a short sleeved tee shirt and a warm, soft sweatshirt-type-but-nicer-looking-than-a-sweatshirt outer layer because I am always cold on the plane.  And Birkenstock-like, not very attractive sandals that slip on and off easily.  (Ahem, Birkenstock footwear is now in fashion!)  Simple jewelry and I’m good to hit the runway…the airplane one that is.

A couple of things came to mind this last trip that I know I couldn’t be without – so I thought I’d share a few of my tips with you:

Can't Be Without my Packing Cubes

Can’t Be Without My Packing Cubes

1)  Packing Cubes

I’ve had these packing cubes you see from eBags for years.  They have a two-way zipper are now available at Ikea and most outdoor gear (think REI) or luggage stores.  I end up using the large one you see for jeans and pants and even t-shirts.  The medium one, if needed, holds workout clothing, the small one is for underwear and sox, and the one with the drawstring top?  It came in a pair to hold shoes, but I have my knitting in there for the plane.  I really enjoy the zen of knitting, and usually have a small project or two that keeps me from overthinking take off, landing and times in between.  And if you are a friend of mine, know that you probably will be getting fingerless gloves for your next birthday!

Fingerless Gloves - What I Create When I'm Traveling

Fingerless Gloves – What I Create When I’m Traveling

I got off track here with the knitting thoughts though.  The three packing cubes are wonderful to pop in a drawer of a hotel room or guest room!  All of your clothing will stay compartmentalized and there is no need to unpack and repack.  They are great gifts for friends or family who travel a bit!   I do also take a kitchen garbage liner for my dirty clothes too.

Knit Kit!

Knit Kit!

2)  Knitting

Back to knitting, this little gadget called “The Knit Kit” is ingenious!  Read about it here.There are nine knitting essentials in this small compact plastic disk – things I use every trip like a folding scissors that can be taken aboard, a knitting counter, crochet hook, and a tape measure.  I haven’t been able to find it in the knit shops here lately, but again I have gifted this to the knitting relatives and friends in my life.  As an aside, I lost the crochet hook part of this, and called the company.  Believe it or not they sent me a replacement FOR FREE!  You gottta love that.  I sure do and it has made me a life long loyal customer and advocate!

3)  Food

I wrote about food for travel almost three years ago, and still follow my take on the plane or in the car suggestions.  I’m adding to this list string cheese: it’s not just for kids but tastes so good and salty and proteiny during the travel day.  And if I have a particularly long travel day I often pack hard boiled, shelled eggs, cut in half, to keep me happy and to avoid the need to buy one of those less-than-optimal plane “snack boxes.”

Let me know if I am missing something travel-wise or food-wise that you find necessary or just plain fun!

 

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Smoked Salmon Chowduh

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Sumptuous Smoked Salmon Chowder

This August, I made a “pilgrimage” to Los Angeles to visit various relatives and to see Paul McCartney in concert at Dodger stadium. I flew from Seattle and my younger sister flew from the East Coast; as soon as we met at the airport we were off – and we proceeded to walk, talk, eat, visit and survive on five hours or less sleep per night.

My other sister Susan reluctantly opted out as she was involved with the Sustainable Seafood Chowder Taste Off, benefitting the Seymour Marine Discovery Center in her home town of Santa Cruz. She sent a note about the event and one recipe in particular – smoked salmon chowder. Susan wrote, “This was an item auctioned off at our online auction. Three board members made chowder (one a professional chef and restaurant owner), other board members provided appetizers, salad, dessert and wines throughout the evening.” As a board member and cook extraordinaire, she was one of the three contestants and cooked batches of smoked salmon chowder totalling 60 servings. I was her consultant … the one who she asked, “how much do I need?” and “Can I make it the day before?” I have become a resource for my family when it comes to feeding a crowd.

I phoned after the contest, which took place in a private coastal California home on the evening of a super moon. She reported that there was a 3-way tie! Anyway, I started to get a hankering for what sounded like a super chowder and she sent on her recipe.

She changed the original Fine Cooking recipe quite a bit and I went even further, swapping out her fennel addition with celery root and frozen roasted corn with fresh corn from my local farmer’s market. Last night, when my daughter and boys arrived from Colorado, we ate my version of the chowder with a giant salad, fresh fruit and seeded crackers. My group gave this chowder high rankings and there was barely a spoonful of it remaining.

So here is my version of her version of the original version. You’ll like this if you enjoy smoked salmon and want a chowder without shellfish.

Chowder Cooking Away

Chowder Cooking Away

Smoked Salmon Chowder

(Serves 4 hefty eaters)

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Ingredients:
  • 3 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 cup sliced leeks, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced and rinsed well.  My leeks were huge and I only needed one.
  • ½ cup peeled celery root, diced ¼ inch
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 2 cup whole milk
  • 2 cup mushroom broth (or vegetable broth is you can’t find mushroom)
  • Red potatoes peeled and cut into small dice (about 2-1/2 cups): I used two potatoes
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • ¾ cup fresh corn kernels, cut off the cob
  • 8-10 oz. hot-smoked salmon (as opposed to lox), skin off, visible bones removed  and flaked into bite-size pieces (about 2 cups)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped celery leaves to garnish (from the inside of a bunch of celery)
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 10 grinds of white pepper
  • 1/8 tsp liquid smoke
Instructions

Melt the butter in a 4 qt. saucepan over medium heat. Add the leeks, corn and celery root and cook, stirring until tender, about six minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring for one minute.

Slowly whisk in the milk and mushroom broth, bring to a simmer. Once it is thickened, add the potatoes and bay leaf, simmer gently until potatoes are tender, about 12 minutes. Remove bay leaf.

Add the salmon, cream, chopped celery leaves, lemon juice, and cook until heated through, about one minute. I actually took it off the heat and just let it sit for five minutes. If you like a thinner chowder, add more mushroom broth or milk. Season with salt and pepper, liquid smoke and taste again.

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Blackberry Pie

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Beautiful Blackberry Pie

Beautiful Blackberry Pie

First of all, I apologize.  I am sorry for posting so many desserty, not-good-for-you recipes lately, because in all honesty I usually eat healthfully and truly like grainy, no-white-flour-and-little-sugar type dishes.  In my world, savory always beats sweet. Well, almost always…

So where do I begin?  I guess with how I collected all the blackberries.  Two or three weeks ago, my husband and I were walking in our Seattle neighborhood park and came upon a bramble of ripe, juicy blackberries growing by the roadside.  Since I had a zip lock bag, we proceeded to pick about four cups of berries, but at the end of the picking spree Wayne accidentally stepped on the plastic bag with our berries.  Not to worry. I immediately thought about making a pie or galette.  I procrastinated a bit too long though and ended up throwing together two large jars of stovetop blackberry jam.  Though unplanned – not bad… Almost gone, in fact.

Next, I had two remaining discs of frozen dough from the galettes I baked the previous week in the freezer.  You remember the dough recipe?  Oh yeah, those babies were just waiting to be called out of the freezer.

And finally, my daughter and kids were visiting.  One of Rachel’s favorite childhood memories includes picking blackberries.  When I was young and foolish, I always told the kids that if they took on the unpleasant task of braving the thorns and spearheading the blackberry picking, I’d bake a blackberry pie.

One grandpa, one uncle and two grandsons picking berries

One grandpa, one uncle and two grandsons picking berries

My daughter  took her two boys to the park with my son and husband to pick and to play, and they quickly amassed 2 ½ POUNDS of ripe berries (uncrushed even!).  By day three I hadn’t done anything with them.

“Just make a pie,” everyone suggested.  Oh yes, just make a pie like it takes no time at all.  My husband even had the gall to suggest I use store bought crust–but that is never going to happen!  I really didn’t think my frozen crust discs were large enough for a pie, and I didn’t have the drive to start fresh and make crust again!

The final straw?  Jakey boy, my “baby” 28 year-old-son, was about to graduate from Endodontics school and he said he really wanted a pie.  So, being a good mother/grandmother/wife/person I rolled out one of the frozen (now defrosted in the fridge) pie crusts.  Bingo, it was a thin crust, my fave -and I barely eked out a lattice for the top, but it was enough crust for a pie.

So it came to pass that our household has its blackberry pie.  I am going to make another recipe of pie crust since I know this pie will disappear in two seconds flat, and everyone is going to volunteer to pick more blackberries.  My son and his family will overlap these visitors and arrive next week, so you better believe I’ll happily bake another pie.

The Pie ... Which Soon Disappeared

The pie … which soon disappeared

Blackberry Pie

Serves 10

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Filling Ingredients
  • 5-6 C blackberries (I had a lot more, maybe 8 cups? or about 2 ½ lbs)
  • 2/3 C granulated sugar (it takes this much because blackberries are sour, people!)
  • 1/3+ C all purpose flour (add more if you have more than 8 cups of berries-1 Tbsp extra flour for each additional cup of berries
  • ½ tsp. grated lemon peel
  • ¾  tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tsp of granulated sugar to sprinkle on top of the finished but unbaked pie
Instructions

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees and adjust racks so you can bake the pie in the middle to lower part of the oven.

For the filling – gently fold all ingredients together with a spatula.

For the crust bottom and top lattice – use your favorite recipe or my easy crust.

Roll out a bottom pie crust for a 9-inch pie plate and put crust inside the glass pie dish.  Sprinkle two teaspoons of flour on the bottom of the pie crust, put filling in, top with lattice or regular pie crust in which you poke several holes.  Sprinkle the top of the pie with 2 teaspoons of sugar.

Put unbaked pie  on top of parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake for ten minutes, then lower the heat to 350 degrees and bake for 35 minutes or until golden brown.

Place the pie plate on a cooling rack; it takes a long time to cool.  I love mine warm with a little whipping cream or vanilla ice cream.  Note: I actually loved filling the pie this time with more berries than called for, but I would adjust the flour as I mention above  or it will be a tad runny like mine was!

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Gingery Cookies

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Crisp & Chewy Gingery Cookies

Crisp & Chewy Gingery Cookies

August in Seattle brings “Seafair” – an annual summer celebration.  Block parties, parades, hydroplane races and the Blue Angels. We always get invited to a Seafair party to view the dark blue planes screaming across the sky and to eat mostly deli food imported from New York.  Dessert?  A variety of  cookies, and this year I was asked to bake ‘em.

What to do, what to do?  I knew there were already peanut butter balls and chocolate chippers in the queue.  As much as I could live on chocolate, I decided to resurrect an old, really good recipe for spicy, sweet ginger cookies.

If you are a ginger lover, make these.  If you are a chocolate lover, dip half in chocolate. They are not your average molasses cookie, and instead of turning a burnished brown, they are golden, crisp around the edges. And unlike the hard ginger cookies you find in a box at the store, these are chewy in the center.

I must comment on the “Lyle’s golden syrup” in these cookies.  I’d never heard of Lyle’s but a client of mine from South Africa had me prepare her favorite cookies for a large gathering using Lyle’s instead of honey or maple syrup.  The cane sugar syrup is produced in the United Kingdom and is a popular sweetener in Great Britain, Australia and Africa.  I found Lyle’s cane syrup easily at my supermarket. And became an instant fan. (If you’re in a pinch and can’t find Lyle’s … maple syrup should suffice.)

Rows and Rows of Cookies

Rows and Rows of Cookies

This makes a nice number of cookies and they freeze well for up to three months.  I usually make what I need then form the rest of the dough into balls rolled in sugar. Then I flash freeze them and keep them in the freezer to bake a few at a time.

These are great with morning tea, and just a little unusual.  Kind of like me!

Gingery Cookies

Makes 3 ½ – 4 dozen 

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Ingredients:

  • ¾ c salted butter, softened
  • 1 cup minus 1 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • ¼ c Lyle’s golden syrup
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • ¾  tsp.fine grained sea salt
  • 2 tsp. baking baking soda
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 ½ tsp. ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp. lemon extract
  • ¼ c chopped crystallized ginger
  • About 3 Tbsp granulated sugar to roll the cookies
Instructions

Preheat oven to 350.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Cream butter and sugar for six minutes at medium speed.  I know it seems like a long time but this adds to the delicate texture of these cookies.  Add the Lyle’s syrup then the egg and mix just until incorporated.

Combine dry ingredients and beat into butter mix until just combined…do not overmix. Fold in chopped ginger.  At this point I always refrigerate the dough for a half hour and wash all the dishes and clean the counters!

Form into 1+¼” balls, roll in sugar and place on parchment-lined cookie sheet.  Flatten each ball with a glass.  They will continue to spread even bigger, so I put 12 cookies per sheet.

Bake 10 minutes or until golden.

If you have frozen balls of dough, remove from the freezer for ½ hour then proceed with flattening and baking.  I often do two at a time in the toaster oven if I crave freshly baked cookies.

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Tasty Summer Tarragon Salad Dressing

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Summer Salad with Tarragon Dressing

Summer Salad with Tarragon Dressing

From mid-July on, my rooftop deck “garden” is in full swing.  I have two tomato plants in a container and they are loaded with beautiful yellow and small red cherry tomatoes.  All my herbs, peppers and red and green lettuce are ready to harvest.  Everything aligns just at the time I crave these herbs and vegetables and most days I make myself a large salad for lunch or as an accompaniment with dinner.

I first laid my lips on this salad dressing at a local neighborhood restaurant and was lucky enough to get the chef to share his recipe with me.  I’ve since changed it a bit (surprise, surprise), and I’ve actually tried it with cilantro and lime in lieu of tarragon and lemon. Surprisingly it wasn’t even close to the marriage of flavors you will enjoy in the tarragon version I’m sharing below. And initially I thought the recipe contained  too much lemon juice/vinegar proportionally to the olive oil, but it works and makes one of the best dressings in my repertoire.  For me, that is a huge statement since I can’t even count how many salad dressings I make.  This one always makes the cut in July when the tarragon grows like wildfire.

Tasty Tarragon Dressing

Tasty Tarragon Dressing

I should kindly ask you to make a salad for this lovely dressing that is somewhat delicate – think about fresh corn kernels, avocado, cherry tomato, paper thin slivers of white mild cheese…  nothing too crunchy or overpowering.  You’ll thank me.

Tarragon Summer Salad Dressing

Makes over one cup

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Ingredients
  • 6 Tbsp fresh lemon juice (3 oz)
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 2 Tbsp white wine vinegar or champagne vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp minced shallots
  • 2 ½ Tbsp minced fresh tarragon
  • 2-3 tsp of honey or to taste
  • ½  cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • 10 grinds of fresh white or black pepper
Instructions

Put everything in the blender and process until smooth.  I actually use my immersion blender for this – so simple!

I put very little of the dressing in the bottom of the salad bowl, then add the lettuce and veggies and toss.  This dressing will keep, covered in the refrigerator, for up to two weeks.

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Rustic Galette

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A Gorgeous Slice of Gallette

A Gorgeous Slice of Gallette

Farmers Markets are to me are what fancy clothing stores are to so many of my friends. Open air food markets give me an adrenaline rush. Just the thought of all the seasonal produce at the stands makes my heart pitter patter like a school girl. The smells, the colors, the variety, the tastes!

I religiously visit two markets each week during the summer – the vendors know me by name, and I sometimes purchase more produce, especially fruit, than I can eat. I am still not over the fact that my sons’ baseball teams are not eating at our house. Nope, just two senior citizens with less capacity and appetite than those 18 year olds I used to feed. As my mother quipped… my eyes are bigger than my stomach.

So it came to pass last week when I was cleaning out the produce drawers of our fridge, as I always do on Fridays, that I happened upon seven nice apricots from a previous visit to the farmer’s market. They were definitely a bit mooshy and past their prime. What to do? Make apricot syrup? Stick them in smoothies? Make a crisp? Nope, I’m over that. They certainly weren’t firm enough for salsa or to slice in salads…

And then … Aha! I had some small discs of pie dough in the freezer so I defrosted one small ball of dough, peeled and sliced the apricots – adding just a few things to thicken them as they cooked and to enhance the flavor, and made a rustic tart or galette.

When it comes to making desserts, I much prefer to bake fruit pies over cakes. However, if I make a pie at home – half of it gets thrown away or sits in the refrigerator for five days or more. Not optimal, you see, to bake a pie for just two people. This galette, however, can be made to serve two or four or even 10 people depending on how much fruit you have and how large you make the tart…

Fresh out of the oven

Fresh Out of the Oven

Don’t be afraid of the crust! I’ve been making pie dough for years – with butter and/or Crisco – and I’ve settled on the following formula because it always works with no angst on my part. The dough rolls out like a dream. This recipe is adapted from my go-to publication, Cooks Illustrated which can’t be beat for instruction specifications.

I divide the recipe – which they say makes one double pie crust – and either make three single crusts that fit a 10-inch glass pie dish or four crusts for the gallette size to serve five or so. Even if I use this recipe for a double pie crust, I always have enough dough left for a single crust (I don’t really like thick pie crust, you see … I must prefer the light, delicate texture of thin).

Galette & Peaches

Galette & Peaches

Roll up your sleeves and try this. You’ll have four hunks of dough ready for a last minute fruit fix and for an impressive, fun dessert.

Rustic Galette

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Crust Ingredients

(For four galettes that are seven inches in diameter)

  • 2 ½ cups all purpose flour – divide into 1½ cups and 1 cup
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 12 Tbsp or 1 ½ sticks salted butter (cut into ¼ inch pieces)
  • ½ cup solid Crisco cut into 4 pieces
  • ¼ cup cold vodka (refrigerate or freeze for an hour – the vodka won’t freeze anyway)
  • ¼ cup cold water (I put water into a cup with ice for a few minutes, then measure what I need)
  • Extra flour to roll out the dough and 1 tsp sugar mix to sprinkle on top of each galette
Instructions

In a food processor, combine 1 ½ cup flour, salt and sugar with two one-second pulses. Add butter and Crisco and process for just 15 seconds. Scrape the dough from the edges of the food processor bowl and move the dough to redistribute evenly. Add the remaining one cup of flour and pulse until mix is distributed and starts to break up, about 4-6 quick pulses. Empty the dough into a larger bowl to mix.

Combine cold vodka and water and pour all over the top of the dough, using a rubber spatula to mix and make a solid mass. Try not to touch it much with your hands and know that it will be sticky and wet. Divide into four fairly even balls and flatten each into a four inch disk. Wrap each with waxed paper or plastic and refrigerate up to two days or freeze for up to three months.

When ready to make the tart, line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Add about two tablespoons of flour to a counter (I use a pastry cloth). Roll the dough into approximately an 11 inch circle. Transfer to the parchment and pread the filling (below) to within 1 ½ inches of the edges, and overlap the crust to leave the center exposed but contain the fruit – kind of a free form pie. I sprinkle the exposed crust with a teaspoon of granulated sugar. Because this is rustic, you don’t need to be neurotic and make a perfect circle, make this paper thin, crimp the edges or make it look magazine perfect. That’s why it is called rustic, silly!

Galette Filling

Serves 5-6

Ingredients
  • 2 cups peaches (peeled) or apricots or a combo 1 ½ lbs Italian plums and 2 peaches or all Italian plums. I cut peeled fruit into roughly ¾ inch pieces
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp grated lemon rind
  • 2 Tbsp sugar/cinnamon mixed – add more or less depending on how sweet you like your pie
  • Pinch of salt
  • About 1 ½ Tbsp flour
Instructions

Fold all these filling ingredients above into the fresh fruit until well combined.

Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes or until the crust is nicely browned. Cool well (just put the parchment on a rack).

Serve the galette slightly warm or room temperature with softly whipped cream or vanilla bean ice cream or plain greek yogurt and enjoy!  Just the name “galette” will make you a super star.

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Marvelous Marinated Cucumber Salad

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Cool Cucumber Salad

Cool Cucumber Salad

During the long, warm days of summer I love eating cold (or room temperature) crunchy, cool and juicy fruits and vegetables. It’s hard to choose among my favorites – but this dish is tried and true … I’ve been making it for least twenty years and it never fails to please me. I would often suggest this salad when catering for large crowds because it is inexpensive to make, beloved by the masses and, for some reason I haven’t quite figured out, it always rounds out menus and buffets and even small family gatherings. I bring this to picnics or barbeques in place of a green salad or coleslaw. Brunch, lunch, dinner … barbeques or spontaneous picnics in the park, this should be on YOUR “to try” list too.

My Mandolin - and GLOVE!

My Mandolin – and GLOVE!

I happen to own a really inexpensive mandoline for slicing the raw cucumbers, and I also have a sturdy protective glove for using the mandoline so I don’t cut my fingers off since I’ve come close to doing that more times than you can imagine. However, you can slice the cucumbers by hand as long as you can make even and thin slices about an eighth of an inch thick. For me, the mandoline works better and I can make this salad in the blink of an eye. It keeps for several days in the refrigerator – although the color isn’t as vibrant. No worries about that though – you can use leftover cucumber slices as a fresh and delicious addition to summer sandwiches.

Colinwood Farm - Port Townsend, WA

Ballard Market – Friendly Vendor from Colinwood Farm

I usually use English (aka Burpless) cucumbers, and recently picked up what I thought was this variety. However the vendor at the farmers market (pictured here) informed me these cucumbers were Japanese Slenders because they had “bumps” instead of ridges. I love learning new things! Either English or Japanese cucumbers will work; neither requires peeling and they have tiny seeds that don’t need to be removed.

Super easy, very few ingredients, healthful. Salty, a bit spicy, sweet. Delicioso! Just my kind of recipe…

Marinated Cucumber Salad

Serves 4 or more

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Ingredients
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp. fine Sea Salt
  • 2 English or Japanese cucumbers
  • Purple onion or radishes for color or garnish, if desired
Instructions

Slice the cucumbers (unpeeled, not seeded) into a large glass bowl by hand or with a mandoline. Boil together the vinegar, sugar, red pepper flakes and salt just until sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes from the start. Pour hot dressing over the cucumbers, stir around a bit and refrigerate the glass bowl with everything inside covered with plastic wrap. Leave in the refrigerator for about an hour. Once the salad has cooled, transfer everything to a tupperware container with a lid that you can seal and shake to distribute the dressing and coat all the cucumber slices. Refrigerate overnight or for several hours, and shake it around a few times when you remember to do so.

Drain before serving – the salt in the recipe causes the cucumbers to release a lot of liquid. Wonderful and easy!

Note: if you use regular cucumbers, be sure to peel the skin, cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and remove the seeds! Then slice into half rounds and proceed.

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