Sunday, September 28, 2008
The Mantles of Linderhof
Having a fireplace in the living room of a 1920's house is not unusual. It's more ambient than practical. And it's a large fireplace with a nice long mantle.
Perfect for decoratives!
We love the mirror over the mantle for it reflects the living room chandelier. The clock was a Valentine's present from husband Jim, the candleholders were estate sale finds and of course, my beloved blue and white has to have a place on the mantle as well. The ginger jar holds seasonal twigs and branches. A favorite piece of soapstone has found it's way there. One of my first pieces brought home by husband Jim on a trip to Japan.
We're fortunate enough to have another fireplace in our dining room. A "would be nice to have" is a reality for when the house was built a brick fireplace fills one wall. Most of my soapstone collection is on that mantle as well as some great old lamps. The mirror is unusual and, like the living room mirror reflects the dining room chandelier, and the perfect place to display a Mexican piece as well as two favorite blue and white vases.
But the best treasure of all is the fireplace in our bedroom. An "always wanted" but something I thought I would never have. I would have signed the contract to buy the house when we walked in the bedroom and I was staring at this fireplace. The mantle clock is a wedding gift to my parents and a Christmas gift to me from my mother. Blue and white pieces, of course. Is any mantle complete without blue and white? Another mirror. This one reflecting the bedroom chandelier.
We're very pleased with Linderhof's three fireplaces and three mantles. It's great to have a place to display collectibles and a fireplace makes a room seem more warm.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
An easy appetizer
Last night I brought The Barefoot Contessa's Hummus and homemade flatbread, the recipe from a food board. I've never had a "signature" appetizer as many attendees do but I just might make this my "signature" -- it is so good and so easy!
Some flour, olive oil, a bit of salt and baking powder, rosemary from the garden. You pat it out on parchment or silpat, and then brush with olive oil and add more rosemary.
It bakes quickly and then when cool, you break it into pieces. After making it a couple of times, as is, I improvised and used thyme instead of rosemary and topped the flatbread with pepper and parm instead of salt. I think it is a recipe that calls for tweaking. But last night, I made it "as written". I'm not sure that I'll ever buy crackers again!
The hummus is easy and there's always a can of chick peas and some tahini in the pantry at Linderhof. Friend Sally dropped the peppers off yesterday and they were the perfect topping for the hummus.
Think of it as a cracker version of rosemary-flecked flatbread. But these are the easiest crackers you’ll ever make: Rather than cutting the dough into small pieces, you bake three large pieces, then break them into smaller ones to serve. The jagged edges invite nibbling.
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary plus 2 (6-inch) sprigs
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup olive oil plus more for brushing
Flaky sea salt such as Maldon
Preheat oven to 450°F with a heavy baking sheet on rack in middle.
Stir together flour, chopped rosemary, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Make a well in center, then add water and oil and gradually stir into flour with a wooden spoon until a dough forms. Knead dough gently on a work surface 4 or 5 times.
Divide dough into 3 pieces and roll out 1 piece (keep remaining pieces covered with plastic wrap) on a sheet of parchment paper into a 10-inch round (shape can be rustic; dough should be thin).
Lightly brush top with additional oil and scatter small clusters of rosemary leaves on top, pressing in slightly. Sprinkle with sea salt. Slide round (still on parchment) onto preheated baking sheet and bake until pale golden and browned in spots, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer flatbread (discard parchment) to a rack to cool, then make 2 more rounds (1 at a time) on fresh parchment (do not oil or salt until just before baking). Break into pieces.
Cooks’ note: Flatbread can be made 2 days ahead and cooled completely, then kept in an airtight container at room temperature.
Friday, September 26, 2008
Plants from the garden to their winter home
I collect clay pots and the older the better. I like different shapes and if there is moss or imbeded dirt in the pot, it is definitely more prized! I'm the one rooting in boxes in garages and basements at Estate Sales, looking for the oldest and dirtiest pots.
It was a beautiful day today and so with a big bucket of dirt, I repotted the rose geranium from the herb garden, dug up one of the chive plants, repotted the agapanthus and decided that I would try to winter over the shrimp plant. One of the patio tables makes a good place for potting and while I was working six sparrows decided to take a bath in one of the birdbaths and a cardinal came to the feeder closest to me. With the sun on my back and the birds twittering away, it was certainly a pleasant time in the garden.
I love my chives, and so dig up yearly a plant to bring inside. It is used sparingly but snippets make baked potatoes extra special, add a mild onion flavor to scrambled eggs, and make a nice garnish for mashed potatoes. I can't imagine a winter without a pot of chives on the kitchen windowsill.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
September tomatoes are the sweetest
We don't grow our tomatoes preferring instead to grow herbs and flowers and so every Wednesday morning and every Saturday morning finds us at our Farmer's market. Tomatoes are always on my list.
Big tomatoes (and we are always grateful when we can get heirloom varieties) which we use for bacon and tomato sandwiches, tomatoes provencal which goes so well with a grilled steak, and sliced thinly for a tomato tart.
Roma tomatoes are good for a quick sauce for pasta and my favorite way is to roast them for roasted tomato soup.
Cherry and pear tomatoes are perhaps my favorite. They're good roasted, several varieties, halved make a great salad when you add olive oil, red wine vinegar and garden basil. I love to buy several colors and make a big bowl of tomato salad. The colors make it an especially pretty dish.
The last week when I went to the Farmer's Market, I found the tomatoes were in short supply. I managed to get three big tomatoes and got the last of some yellow pear, mini romas and orange cherries. Sliced and topping a salad of baby spinach, they made a pretty salad.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
A German Torten
I loved the dessert so much that I begged for the recipe which she kindly shared. I still have her handwritten note card with the recipe. For the cake you need a special pan and a special glaze. That cake pan was the first special equipment I ever bought for my kitchen. Although I don't make the torten every year, the pan has survived every time I ruthlessly cleaned the kitchen cupboards.
I try to keep a package or two of the glaze in the pantry in case I want to make the torten. Friend Diane made it with peaches and so do I. I've not tried it with any other fruit although the recipe calls for "fruit" and not peaches.
If you buy the glaze, I would assume that the cake portion COULD be made in a regular pie plate, however, there would not be the lip around the edge to hold in the fruit.
It's a simple recipe and like so many European desserts not all that sweet.
After an absence of several years, it was nice to have the torten for dessert. Like welcoming an old friend back to the table.
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 t. vanilla
1 cup flour
1 t. baking powder
Mix sugar eggs and vanilla until creamy. Add dry ingredients and mix well. Pour into greased (buttered) torten pan and bake at 350 for 30 min. Remove from pan immdiately onto serving plate. Allow to cool completely.
Arrange fruit on torte, pour filling over fruit and let set until serving time.
1 large can fruit or 2 c. fresh fruit
3 heaping T. sugar
1 package Dr. Oetker cake glaze (can be purchased at World Market)
1 c. fruit juice or water
Heat juice or water, then add sugar and cake glaze which has been mixed together. Cook until thickened. Pour over fruit and torte. Let set untl serving time. Top with whipped cream.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
The heart and soul of a home . . .
Although our heart is small (it's floor space is only 10 by 10) it works big. We have two nice windows -- one over the sink, the other over the stove so it is a light space. Favorite jars are on the countertops, much beloved copper pots hang from the ceiling and are at my fingertips when needed. Without much wall space, we find odd places for "kitchen art". A French poster on Chinese Tea is hung on the refrigerator cabinet. A reminder of a great day spent with friends at a home tour.
But the dining room is the soul.
It is where we share our hospitality with our friends. Great meals and great wines enjoyed with even greater company. With a dining room table that is always set for six but can expand to seat 12, the dining room is the scene of heated political conversations as well as much laughter.
In my early years, when I lived in houses that had both an eat in kitchen and dining room, I always said that if I had a choice I would choose a non-eat in kitchen and a dining room over an eat in kitchen and no dining room. For a home needs both a heart and a soul.
We enjoy having friends over for dinner and so many friends have shared our table with us, thus making sure that Linderhof's soul runs deep.
Monday, September 22, 2008
A Tomato Luncheon
What better way to celebrate our favorite vegetable than with a luncheon made up entirely of tomatoes.
What better centerpiece for a tomato luncheon that an antique bowl filled with both tomatoes and garden basil.
From soup. A roasted tomato soup from Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa, garnished with a sprig of garden basil and served in the shallow bowls in the shape of a cabbage leaf.
To a wonderful tomato and blue cheese tart. The recipe found on a favorite website, posted by bakergirl, was a success. Baked in my newest pan -- the square tart pan. It made a beautiful presentation and I liked the roundness of the tomatoes with the squareness of the tart.
To go with, a salad of Farmer's market arugula with a lemon olive oil and vinegar dresing, topped with a heirloom cherry tomato.
Yes, we even served tomato for dessert -- a tomato soup cake frosted with cream cheese frosting to which I added lemon extract, lemon zest and minced basil.
It was a great lunch for a rainy almost fall day. We were reminded that soon, summer and it's tomatoes would be gone.
1 cup flour
4 ounces cream cheese, chilled, diced into 1/2" pieces
1 stick unsalted butter, chilled, diced into 1/2' pieces
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 ounces creamy blue cheese such as Bleu d'Auvergne, finely crumbled*
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise *note
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 Tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
2 green onions, chopped (including 2 " of green stems)
1. For the crust, place four, cream cheese, butter, salt and cayenne pepper in a food processor. Pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Remove and knead mixture into a smooth mass, then press it with our fingers in an even layer over the bottom, -- not the sides-- of a 9 inch tart pan with removable bottom. Smooth dough with the back of a spoon (The crust will be pretty thick) Freeze crust 15 minutes to firm.
2. Position rack in center of oven and preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake crust until golden brown, about 30 minutes. remove crust from oven and cool 5 minutes.
3. Sprinkle cheese evenly over crust. Arrange tomatoes in a single layer over the cheese, cut sides up. Whisk together oil and vinegar in a medium bowl and drizzle over the tomatoes, then sprinkle with salt. Return to oven and bake until cheese has melted and tomatoes are hot, 10 to 12 minutes.
4. Cool tart 5 to 10 minutes and then remove sides of tart pan. (Tart can be made 3 hours ahead. Leave tart at cool room temperature and reheat in preheated 350 degree oven until warmed through, 8 to 10 minutes.
5. To serve, place tart on a platter. Mix together parsley and green onions. Sprinkle over tart. Cut tart into thin wedges and serve with paper cocktail napkins or cut into 6 slices and serve on plates with forks for a first course. Either way, this tart. with its flaky crust and delectable topping of sweet tomatoes and salty cheese, is a wonderful opener.
*I used both yellow and red cherry tomatoes and alternated them. I had forgotten the onions and so used garden chives instead.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Fall tiptoes in
Silver pheasants and quail come out of hiding to grace tabletops as well. The coffee table is large and I love the big blue and white bowl. Filled to the brim with colorful pumpkins entertwined with bittersweet and a pair of shy silver quail bring fall to the living room.
The ginger jar on the mantle gets big branches of bittersweet and some leaves -- it's not so much an arrangement as branches just plunked down into the jar.
Even the screened in porch gets it share of pumpkins and bittersweet and the summer annuals in the iron pots get replaced with autumn leaves.
These silver quail are always on the breakfast room table. A last year Christmas gift from dear friends but they make the breakfast room especially fallish with their presence. Mini gourds and mini pumpkins from the farmer's market fill another blue and white bowl.
At the top of the stairs, it feels like fall with the branches in the blue and white vase.
I think I love fall decorating so much because the colors of fall fit in so well at Linderhof -- the golds and oranges and rusts and sagey greens go well with Linderhof's gold and deep green colors.
Linderhof, in my opinion, wears fall very well.
This week, I shall go to the pumpkin farm for a passel of pumpkins for both the front yard and the back garden. A trip, too, to the mum farm for mums for next year's garden as well as a few choice plants for the back garden and the front yard.
When the leaves start to turn in a week or so and with the piles of pumpkins around the front and a couple of well placed mum plants, it will definitely look like fall on the prairie.
Friday, September 19, 2008
The dining room -- a very special room
It's a bright room and some of my choice pieces of blue and white are in this room -- the beautiful Spode bowl, the large Spode Blue Room platter, the oriental candlesticks that we found at Tuesday Morning but were so pricey that we waited two years until they were marked down 75% before we bought them.
We have an eclectic mix of furniture -- the Duncan Phyfe table and sideboard, the shield back chairs, an Oriental cabinet which holds glasses and serving pieces and the large walnut Victorian wardrobe converted to storage for husband Jim's collection of wine glasses and my Spode Blue Room plates.
We love fresh flowers on the table and nothing suits me better than to have an arrangement in the blue and white bowl. Husband Jim says that that is the only reason I have dinner parties -- so that I can buy fresh flowers for the table. He's not totally right!!! I sometimes but rarely buy them just for me!
When the bowl doesn't hold flowers, it may hold lemons in summer, apples in fall or oranges in winter. It's a useful bowl and it even looks good empty!
These flowers were the prize that I won at the weekly Chamber coffee. They were absolutely beautiful. So beautiful in fact, that I had not one but two dinner parties so that I could not only share my table but share my flowers with dear friends.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Two Gifts from a friend
The second gift was a recipe from a new cookbook that she had bought -- Olives and Oranges. A recipe for a lemon olive oil cake. She had made it and raved about it and share the recipe.
Since I had lemons on the counter, I decided to make this cake.
It turned our to be a fantastic lemon cake. I dusted it with powdered sugar and decorated it with sprigs of lemon verbena from the garden. I ended up sharing it with dinner guests and they, too, thought it was a great cake (and went very well with the wee glass of Lemincello that we served alongside)
One piece shall be saved for tomorrow morning. With a cup of cherry tea and a slice of the lemon olive oil cake, it shall make my morning. Thank you, friend Carolyn, for two great gifts.
Lemon Olive Oil Cake
slow-cook recipe/Makes 10 servings
Versions of this simple cake are made all over Italy, to be eaten at breakfast with coffee or tea. Similar to pound cake, it differs mainly in that the fat used is olive oil instead of butter, which, surprisingly, results in a cake with an even richer and more unctuous character. yogurt adds a subtle tang. Use your best extra-virgin olive oil here.
Flavor tip:Whether you are baking or making a sauce or salad dressing, capture the flavorful oil that lies just beneath the peel of a lemon, lime, or orange by zesting the citrus directly into the bowl with the other ingredients.
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
3 large eggs
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
Finely grated zest of 3 lemons
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Put oven rack in center position and heat oven to 325* F. Lightly oil a 9-inch sprin form pan.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.
With an electric mixer, beat eggs and sugar in a large bowl on high speed for 5 minutes, or until pale and thick. Add yogurt and zest; beat to combine. With mixer on medium speed, add oil in a quick, steady stream. Reduce speed to low and gradually add flour mixture just until blended. Whisk batter by hand to make sure that all ingredients are incorporated.
Pour batter into pan. Bake, rotating pan once, until cake is golden, center springs back to the touch, and edges pull away from pan, 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool in pan for a minute or two on rack, then release from pan and let cool completely on rack before slicing.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
My Chicken Story
I've searched for recipes for the dark meat that I would find palatable but they were often lacking and found me hoping that packages of legs and thighs would not mysteriously appear in my kitchen.
Until . . . I got the latest Anna Pump cookbook -- "Summer on a Plate" -- and there I found a recipe for apricot-lime baked chicken. Anna suggests using whole chicken legs -- but separated into thighs and drumsticks.
I had a gift package of chicken legs, apricot preserves in the pantry and limes in a bowl on the countertop. Everything to make this dish.
With this recipe, I have now been converted to chicken legs. It is absolutely delicious!!!
Of course, the accompanying apricot mayonnaise didn't hurt. It's a terrific go-with with the apricot-lime chicken, but it's also good as a mayonnaise for ham or chicken sandwiches, hamburgers and thinned a bit, it makes a good salad dressing as well. Of course, I could eat it right out of the bowl -- it is that good!
Husband Jim is happy because I am so fond of this dish. So much so that he has presented me with another gift package of chicken legs!
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup apricot preserves
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 t. hot pepper sauce
1 box peppery daikon sprouts, trimmed (I eliminated this ingredient)
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
1/3 cup apricot preserves
1 T. curry powder
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 425
Arrange the chicken legs in a single layer, sking down, in a large roasting pan. Place the garlic, lime juice, apricot preserves, soy sauce, sugar and hot sauce in a food processor fitted with a metal blade, and puree until smooth. Pour the mixture over the chicken and bake 1 1/4 hours, turing the chicken once after 40 minues.
Sprinkle daikon sprouts over a serving platter and pile the cooked chicken on top.
To make the apricot mayonnaise, place the mayonnaise, apricot preserves, curry powder, lemon juice and salt in a bowl. Stir to blend well. Transfer to a serving bowl to offer alongside the chicken.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
TWO PLUM TARTS
Last week we had not one but two dinner parties. Dinner parties call for desserts and September calls for plums so . . .I used for inspiration a newest cookbook -- Summer on a Plate -- by Anna Pump (a longtime favorite of mine). It's a great tart recipe although it really is an old friend for it first appeared in Anna's Loaves and Fishes Party Cookbook and I met the singular version of the tart in one of Ina Garten's (The Barefoot Contessa) cookbooks.
It's truly a simple recipe and goes together very quickly. I did use a tart pan instead of the springform both times I made it (unfortunately I made one at a time rather than following Anna's recommendation of doing them in pairs).
But I have since found out that Anna's two tarts are the right amount -- one is never enough!
TWO PLUM TARTS
1 1/2 cups finely chopped walnuts
1 1/2 packed cups light brown sugar
24 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1 tablespoon slices
2 egg yolks
4 pounds ripe Italian prune plums, pited and quartered lengthwise
Preheat the oven to 400
Combine the flour, walnuts and sugar in a large bowl. Add the butter and the egg yolks and mix by hand or with an electric mixer until crumbly (I used my food processor for this).
Press 3 cups of the crumb mixture into each of two 9 or 10 inch springform pans, creating an even layer over the bottom of each pan. (I used a regular tart tin for this recipe). Beginning from the outer edge of each pan, arrange the plums in a circular, flowerlike pattern, skin side down, over the doughy layer. Sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture uniformly over the plums.
Bake 50 to 55 minutes or until lightly browned and the plum juice has risen to the top. Remove from the oven and cool 10 minutes. Transfer the tars frm the pans to flat cake plates. Serve warm or at room tempature.
Monday, September 15, 2008
The view is always pleasant as the breakfast room faces the back garden -- the herb garden. With many feeders, the birds are always entertaining as I enjoy my first coffee and the morning paper.
No television in the breakfast room -- only music is allowed in there and one of my favorite CD's is Mozart for Morning Coffee.
Refreshed with two cups of coffee and the crossword puzzle finished, I go into the kitchen to fix breakfast.
It's a great way to start the day.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
It's Pesto Time
This weekend, the basil harvest was big enough to provide five jam jars of pesto. One in the fridge to drizzle over tomatoes while the other four was put in the freezer for winter meals.
My recipe is simple except I omit the Parmesan until I thaw and use. I read that tip somewhere (although now I can't remember where) and have always done so.
For every 2 cups of basil leaves, you need 1/2 cup of olive oil, 1/3 cup pine nuts (you can use walnuts but I prefer using the traditional pine nuts) and 3 medium size cloves of garlic. If you're going to use it right away and not freeze, you will also need 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese.
Combine the basil and pine nuts and pulse a few times. Add the garlic and pulse a few times more. Turn on the food processor and slowly pour the olive oil down the tube in a constant stream. Scrape down sides. If you're going to use it right away, add the Parmesan cheese. If you're going to freeze, put it in jars or freezer containers and seal.
Two cups of basil leaves will make about 1 cup of pesto.
The best thing about pesto making is the smear that I put over a slice of baguette. I call it "quality control"!
Saturday, September 13, 2008
When we were in England, I didn't buy them -- too hard to bring them back in my luggage. I had forgotten them for a long time and then decided that they were just what my kitchen needed. I googled, I ebayed and alas, nothing . . . until one magical night, there they were listed on ebay. I watched the auctions like a hawk and was able to procure SIX of the jars!
I find that they are perfect in the kitchen to hold odd things like tea, whole wheat flour, self rising flour, sweetner and vanilla sugar. I love the labels of the English sweets. And although I didn't get them on one of my trips to England, they still remind me of those trips.
My everyday tea of choice is an English brand and I feel it is so appropriate that that tea is stored in these British jars.
In England, they call candy "sweets" and a shop that sells candy is a "sweetie shop" not a candy store. Thus, there are really "sweetie jars" not candy jars.
Whatever you call them, they are perfect for my kitchen!
Friday, September 12, 2008
Afternoon Tea Overlooking the Garden
On a trip north I was able to snag some real Devonshire cream at a reasonable price and since I could not have a cream tea alone, I invited some friends to share tea with me.
My favorite scone receipt is not English but rather inspired from a favorite, Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa. Made plain for this tea without any dried fruit or currants. It's easy to do in the mixer and makes the flakest scones ever. They're the best breakfast scone when you add dried fruit, nuts and orange peel.
Besides the best scones and real Devonshire cream, I also had homemade strawberry jam with big plumb pieces of strawberry in the jam.
We also enjoyed madelines, a favorite cookie especially at tea time. This one inspired by a magazine receipt for a lemon basil cupcake. I made my favorite madelines and added lemon peel and chopped basil to the batter rather than the rosemary and orange I do so often.
We enjoyed the afternoon with pots and pots of tea, eating scones, jam and cream and leaving only crumbs of the lemon basil madelines.
Barefoot Contessa Scones
Real Devonshire Cream
Fresh Strawberry Jam
Lemon Basil Madelines
2 tablespoons sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 pound cold unsalted butter, diced
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup cold heavy cream
1 extra-large egg beaten with 2 tablespoons milk or water, for egg wash
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Combine 4 cups flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, the baking powder, and salt in an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Blend in the cold butter at the lowest speed and mix until the butter is in pea-sized pieces. Combine the eggs and heavy cream and quickly add to the flour/butter mixture. Combine until just blended. The dough may be a bit sticky.
Dump the dough out onto a floured surface and be sure it is well combined. Flour your hands and a rolling pin and roll the dough out to 3/4-inch to 1-inch thick. You will see lumps of butter in the dough. Cut into squares with a 4-inch cutter and then cut in half diagonally to make triangles. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
Brush the scones with the egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the outsides are crisp and the insides are done.