Gardening, Cooking and Decorating on the Prairie of Kansas

Welcome to Linderhof, our 1920's home on the prairie, where there's usually something in the oven, flowers in the garden for tabletops and herbs in the garden for cooking. Where, when company comes, the teapot is always on and there are cookies and cakes to share in the larder.

Friday, October 31, 2008

It's Halloween

It's Halloween -- All Hallow's Eve.

The secular event -- where children dress in costumes and come begging for candy has to be one of my favorite holidays!

I've loved Halloween since I was a child. I loved to dress up -- and go from house to house with my brown grocery sack to hold all of my loot.

In my Trick or Treating Days, there were no miniature candy bars and into the sack went apples, homemade popcorn balls (some unwrapped which meant the other treats stuck to it), small paper Halloween bags of assorted candy and occasionally, just occasionally a full size candy bar.

Coming home, my mother would put a sheet of the night's paper on the floor and we would dump out our back and eat from our treasure trove.

Today will be spent making the portico into a "Witch's Lair". We'll hang a couple of lighted "ghosts" and put up some drippy cheesecloth. I'll carve a pumpkin and we've got two cement ones to light as well.

Come five oclock, dressed as a witch, I'll take my place in the lair and with my "cauldron" of candy bars -- full size candy bars. Because any child brave enough to enter the lair deserves a big candy bar.

Dinner for me will be late although husband Jim will eat earlier. As traditional on Halloween as turkey is on Thanksgiving is the bowl of chili and pumpkin pie for dessert.

A tradition started by my mother when my brother and I were small. A warm meal before we started out on the cold night. We liked it so well that we begged for chili the next year and alas, a tradition was born all those many years ago.

My brother, too, still eats chili for Halloween as do I. Daughter Sarah has NEVER had anything but chili for Halloween.

That scary witch at Linderhof will be me!!!!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A great pasta dish

This great pasta is a Patricia Wells recipe. Not found by me but found by Mary at One Perfect Bite. It's a great pasta dish and is a grown up version of the dish that my mother fixed so often in my childhood known as goulash. Sauteed hamburger and onion, a can of tomatoes or tomato paste and either spaghetti or macaroni.

This version has sweet Italian sausage, fusilli, a little bit of tomato paste and wine. The egg finish adds another layer of flavor.

As I made this sophisticated version of goulash, I thought of my mother and how her goulash was an economical way to feed two growing children with probably a half pound of hamburger and lots of macaroni!

I've not made goulash in a long time but my first forkful of this recipe brought back all those childhood memories.

Thank you Mary.

Fusilli with Fennel, Sausage and Chianti

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casing removed, broken into small pieces
1 to 3 teaspoons fennel seeds
3 tablespoons concentrated tomato paste (from a tube)
2 cups Chianti or other dry red wine
2 eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons kosher salt + salt to taste
1 pound dried fusilli or penne
About 1 cup pasta cooking water

1) Heat olive oil in a very large skillet until it shimmers. Add sausage and brown. Stir in fennel seeds and tomato paste; blend well. Bring to a simmer; cook for 2 minutes to blend flavors. Add the wine; simmer, uncovered, until most of the wine cooks off, about 15 minutes. Taste for seasoning.
2) Place the eggs in a small bowl and whisk to blend. Whisk in the cheese and a generous grinding of pepper. Set aside.
3) Bring 6 quarts of water to a rolling boil in a large pot. Stir in 3 tablespoons salt and the fusilli. Cook until tender but firm, about 9 to 11 minutes. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water.
4) Add the pasta to the skillet containing the sausage meat. Toss to coat fusilli with sauce. Remove pan from heat. Pour in egg mixture. Working quickly, toss pasta with two forks to incorporate eggs and coat each piece of fusilli with the egg mixture. If the pasta appears dry add pasta water, a tablespoon at a time, to create a smooth, clinging sauce. Yield: 4 to 6 servings.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Frost is on the Prairie Pumpkin

Frost was predicted to come to the prairie Monday night. Not a touch of frost but the cold killing frost. With such a frost predicted, we get busy. We cut big armfuls of annuals to bring inside. Big bouquets are arranged on the dining room and breakfast room tables. Other vases are pressed into service and most of our rooms are "in bloom". We get to enjoy the annuals for another week this way.

The mums, asters, saffron crocus and pansies don't mind the frost so we do nothing with them. We don't even cover them for they will still bloom their heart away in the warm days following that first frost.
We also harvest the basil. We cut a big bouquet to put in a glass of water on the windowsill -- the last fresh snippets we'll have until next summer. We make the rest into pesto for the freezer. We like a dollop of it on spaghetti or in a pot of vegetable soup in the winter. It truly brings the taste of summer to dreary winter days.

Tuesday morning, we saw that the predicted frost had come. A lot of annuals in the back garden were withered and wilted and there was a light coating of ice on the birdbaths and fountain.

It's always sad to say goodbye to the summer garden but we have our reminders in the pesto in the freezer and the bouquets on the tabletops.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A salad of tomatoes and basil

It's a simple salad -- slices of fresh mozarella, slices of the last of the garden tomatoes and basil leaves, salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.

It's formal name is Caprese Salad and it is certainly a favorite at Linderhof. The salad is often on the menu at nicer Italian restaurants. And that it where we first met it, as a first course at an upscale Italian restaurant in Oklahoma. It was definitely love at first sight!

It is often on our summer table for the garden basil is lush and we bring home bags of farmer's market tomatoes in the summer.

To me, the salad alone makes a great summer lunch with a big frosty glass of iced tea.

I especially relish the last Caprese of the season as much as I look forward to the first.

We'll see our old friend again next summer.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Bulbs an October Tradition

A big basket of bulbs is an October tradition. Daffodils, tulips, hyacinths. I've been planting bulbs for most of the 20 Octobers that we've lived at Linderhof and spring makes quite a show.
The daffodils have multiplied and some years I've bought more expensive and fewer bulbs so we have some unusual flowers come spring. Other years I've bought a big sack of more common daffodils like Mount Hood.

The tulips, too, range in all colors but unfortunately, they, unlike the daffs, don't multiply. But I still like the tulips anyway and plant a good supply of them each fall.

I love hyacinths for their smell is incomparable! Blue and white and purply ones mostly -- I don't really care for the pink ones. Often I'll get a few bulbs to chill and force in January in my bulb vases. They make the whole house smell good.

This year, however, instead of the regular hyacinths, I got a bag of the little grape hyacinths -- muscari. I've never planted them at Linderhof and I can't wait for them to bloom. I planted most of them around the center fountain in the herb garden but there were a few "strays" that I found when my bulb basket was empty -- these I planted in the spot where I found them in the basket -- so there should be two surprise showings of the muscari.
With my jar of bone meal -- a must for planting bulbs, it's fun to take the basket of bulbs on a nice October day with the sun on your back -- and plant spring flowers! The only hard part is trying to remember where there are already bulbs -- you don't want to dig up already planted bulbs!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A good steak and a bottle of wine

The prairie is known for beef. Many farmers grow beef here and as we leave our little town, you'll see many pastures full of cattle.

So we love our steak. We happened to go to the little town south of us yesterday and were able to stop at our favorite meat market. It's an old fashioned butcher's shop that, when you step inside, you feel as if you're in an earlier decade. They sell the best beef and it is the place to buy steak, roasts, lean hamburger, fresh never frozen chickens.

Our cut of choice is Kansas City strip and we prefer our steaks grilled. Husband Jim does them to perfection. Topped with a pat of chive butter from the freezer, it is a meal worthy of any expensive steak house.

Sometimes we accompany our steak with the traditional baked potato but last night we decided that out of season roasted asparagus and sauteed baby bella mushrooms would be the perfect accompaniment.

And what is a steak without a bottle of wine? Husband Jim chose a great cabernet -- from Gallo. It was the perfect wine for the steak.
The mushrooms were my adaptation of The Barefoot Contessas Sauteed Wild Mushrooms which I assume is in her new cookbook, Barefoot Contessa, Back to Basics, and which she demonstrated on her show last week. Since the wild mushrooms on the prairie come in little boxes, I chose to use only baby bellas. It is the perfect accompaniment for a steak.

Barefoot Contessa Sauteed Wild Mushrooms

2 pounds mixed wild mushrooms, such as cremini, shiitake, porcini, and portobello
1/2 cup good olive oil
1 cup chopped shallots (4 large)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped garlic (6 cloves)
1 cup chopped flat leaf parsley

Brush the caps of each mushroom with a clean sponge. Remove and discard the stems. Slice the small mushrooms thickly and cut the large ones in a large dice.
Heat the olive oil in a large (11 - inch) Dutch oven or saucepan. Add the shallots and cook over low heat for 5 minutes, or until the shallots are translucent. Add the butter, mushrooms, salt, and pepper and cook over medium heat for 8 minutes, until they are tender and begin to release their juices, stirring often. Stir in the garlic and cook for 2 more minutes. Toss in the parsley, sprinkle with salt, and serve warm.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Fort

The Fort is the reason that our little town on the prairie exists. In 1842, the Government built the Fort -- the second fort on the military road from Leavenworth. It's the midway point between Leavenworth and Gibson.

The town grew from the Fort and when you step outside you are just across the street from downtown.

Named for General Winfield Scott, the renowned general was so irritated that this fort named for him was "in the middle of nowhere" -- that he never visited this tribute to his military might.

A fall day is a pretty day to visit our Fort -- the leaves are starting to turn on the trees on the parade grounds. And the air is crisp and cool.

Our little town is lucky that the Fort is now a National Historic Site. It's been restored and preserved.

It's a great place for a walk on a sunny fall day.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Butternut Squash Muffins with a Frosty Top

I love cookbooks and have too many of them. Some I never use and others there is one -- just one -- recipe that I use. At Borders last weekend, I found in the cookbook section, Jamie At Home, a cookbook AND a garden book. A combinaton that I love!

But it also came with a $35.00 price tag which, in my opinion, is a bit pricey for a casual cookbook buy.

However, one of the recipes intrigued me -- a butternut squash muffin with olive oil for the fat. What is a cook to do?
I made the muffins this week. The recipe makes 24 nice muffins. Actually, they're more cupcakes because of the amount of sugar in them and the frosty top. But they are healthy for they have butternut squash in them!
The frosty top is sour cream and powdered sugar and zest. Decorated with lavender from the garden and zest.

They certainly are a muffin worth keeping.

Did I buy the book? No, I shamelessly copied the recipe on a very small envelope -- the only thing I had to write on in my purse! The recipe, as written on that envelope.

Butternut Squash Muffins With A Frosty Top

14 oz. butternut deseeded and roughly chopped
2 1/2 c. light brown sugar
4 eggs
2 1/2 c. flour
2 heaping t. baking powder
handful walnuts
1 t. cinnamon
3/4 c. olive oil

zest 1 Clementine
Zest 1 lemon, juice 1/2 lemon
2 heaped T. powdered sugar
1/2 c. sour cream

Oven 350. Squash in processor. Add all ingredients and whiz. Bake 20-25 min.

Place all ing in bowl and mix well--taste and adjust. Spoon over cakes. Decorate with zest and dried lavender flowers.

Note: I did bake the squash before adding to the food processor.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Easy Cheese Danish

I love cheese Danish. It has always been my Danish of choice. I was very happy when in the latest Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, Barefoot Contessa At Home, included a recipe for a cheese Danish. An easy cheese Danish!

With a bit of cream cheese, sugar, lemon, a couple of eggs and a smidge of ricotta, you can whip up the filling in a trice. A package of puff pastry is always in my freezer, and once thawed, is the basis for the Danish.

Ina cuts hers into fourths but I wanted to stretch mine a bit further so I cut each sheet of pastry into nine squares. Instead of a tablespoon of filling I used a teaspoon.

And as she suggested, I made them the night before, covered and refrigerated until this morning.
Up early (but not as early as if I had to entirely make them) to preheat the oven to 400 so that I could pop the two trays of Danish into the oven. The smaller ones still took the 20 minutes to bake and come out luscious and golden.

They made a wonderful addition to the food table at our Chamber coffee this morning and were the first of the treats to go. Yes, I did have one -- before anyone came (for I came early to set up) -- and it was still warm. It was heaven!

Easy Cheese Danish
Barefoot Contessa at Home

8 oz cream cheese at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
2 extra large egg yolks, at room temperature
2 Tbsp ricotta cheese
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
2 sheets (1 box) frozen puff pastry, defrosted
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Place the cream cheese & sugar in bowl of an electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment and cream together on low speed until smooth. With the mixer still on low, add the egg yolks, ricotta, vanilla, salt, and lemon zest and mix until just combined. Do not whip!

Unfold one sheet of pastry onto a lightly floured board and roll it slightly with a floured rolling pin until it’s a 10×10 inch square. Cut the sheet into quarters. Place a heaping tablespoon of cheese filling into the middle of each of the 4 squares. Brush the border of each pastry with egg wash and fold two opposite corners to the center, brushing and overlapping the corners of each pastry so they firmly stick together. Brush the top of the pastries with egg wash. Place the pastries on the prepared sheet pan. Repeat with the second sheet of puff pastry and refrigerate the filled Danish for 15 minutes.

Bake the puff pastries for about 20 minutes, rotating the pan once during baking, until puffed and brown. Serve warm.

Makes 8 Danish

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Old Fashioned Spaghetti and Meatballs

It was a cool and rainy night and I dusted off an old family recipe -- spaghetti and meatballs. Growing up neither Italian or in an Italian neighborhood, this was my mother's way of preparing spaghetti and meatballs -- from scratch!

I'm sure a true Italian mama would throw up her hands at this version of spaghetti and meatballs but to us, growing up, we were eating Eye-talian (as my mother always said).

The meatballs are really more like meatloaf with chopped onion, egg and soft bread crumbs. (I add about a tablespoon of freshly chopped parsley -- but Mother never did) Made fairly big (palm size -- they fit nicely in my palm) and then browned on all sides.

Drained on a paper towel while the skillet is used to make the sauce. Chopped onion and garlic are sauteed in olive oil, then a big can of crushed tomatoes are poured in. (And I add another tablespoon of chopped freshly parsley.) The meatballs are added back in and then the whole is simmered until the sauce is thick and the meatballs are done.
A big pot of boiling water holds the box of thin spaghetti which cooks up rather quickly. Drained and put on a platter, the meatballs and sauce poured over. A good grating of fresh Parmesan cheese is the final touch.

Comfort food for a cool night. Comfort food that reminds me of winter dinners growing up.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Spices and Such


I think I've found the perfect container for herbs and spices in the kitchen. I'm not sure how long I've used the test tubes for my spices but it is the perfect storage for having the herbs and spices close at hand.

It uses a small footprint on the kitchen countertop but yet it holds 32 different herbs and spices. To keep things organized, I stick a small round sticker on top with the name of the contents and then alphabetize them.

It holds mostly spices and seeds (sesame -- both white and black and poppy) for most of my herbs are from the garden. However, there are a few dried herbs in the tubes.

It is amazing that usually the tubes hold one of the little jars of spices and so I don't have to worry about finding a place to store half jars of things.

I find that most of the tubes are emptied more than one time per year but every spring, I do "clean house" and replace anything that is old for spices, especially, loose a lot of potency when they are too old.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Herb Butters

Herb butters are delicious and so easy to make for they are butter, a bit of chopped fresh herb and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Packed into a small crock, they're pretty enough to put on the table if you'd like.
But as fall approaches, itis always nice to have herb butter in the freezer. Each stick of a pound of butter, get's it own herb, rolled into a log, wrapped in parchment, labeled and then frozen.
From chive, to savory, to basil to thyme.
The butters are rolled into a log, tied with string
And then labeled for the freezer.

It is so easy, to pull out the log, cut off a pat or two to use and then put back into the freezer. You can also thaw a log, put into a crock and put on the table.

Chive butter is a favorite and you can use it on almost everything! Baked potatoes, eggs, steak.

Savory butter we use on green or wax beans, summer squash or zucchini, or to top a poached egg.

Basil butter is great on any tomato dish, on eggs, on a Cornish hen or in a pot of bean soup.

Thyme butter is great to use in stuffings, gravy, on pork chops or on hot vegetables.

Herb butter is easy to make. A stick of butter at room temperature, 2 to 3 teaspoonfuls of chopped fresh herbs and a squeeze of lemon juice (the juice of 1/2 lemon is just right). Make sure the butter is really soft (leave it out overnight is good) and then work the herbs and lemon juice into the butter.

You can put into a crock for immediate use or wrap in parchment and freeze.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Cider Roasted Winter Squash

We love autumn when butternut and acorn squashes come to market. We have one of the fall squashes in some form at least once per week and both husband Jim and I adore these golden fleshed squashes.

With a big acorn and a small butternut in the vegetable bin, I decided to try this recipe for Cider Roasted Winter Squash. From the latest issue of Cottage Living. Actually, the second recipe from this issue that I've tried. The first being the Caramel Apple Upside Down Olive Oil Cake.
That recipe was certainly a winner.

This one is too!

With fresh thyme and sage from the garden, it certainly is a keeper and it is so good that I am planning on having it on the Thanksgiving menu. It will go as well with roasted turkey as it did with grilled pork chops.

Cider Roasted Winter Squash
(From the October 2008 Issue of Cottage Living)

1/4 cup apple cider (or unfiltered apple juice)
2 T. cider vinegar
3 T. olive oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
4 small acorn squash (about 3 pounds), halved, seeded and cut into 2 inch wedges
1 small butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds), halved, seeded and cut into 2 inch wedges
4 sprigs fresh sage (chopped)
4 sprigs fresh thyme
sea salt to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400. Whisk together first 4 ingredients in a large bowl. Add acorn squash and remaining ingredients and toss to coat. Place vegetables in a single layer on a shallow baking pan and roast at 400, turning once for 50 to 60 minutes or until tender and light golden brown around the edges. Serve immediately or at room temperature.

What I like best about this recipe is that you don't have to peel the squash -- winter squash is not the easiest to peel!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Tablecloths and Napkins Always

I grew up with a tablecloth on the table -- always. Whether it was breakfast or lunch in the kitchen or dinner in the dining room. Real cloth napkins as well --used for more than one meal before they were washed, lightly starched and ironed to perfection. My mother would never serve a meal on a bare table as she would never go outdoors without clothes!
I like tablecloths, too. For the breakfast room table, we have several and the table is never without it's tablecover. Whether it is just us or company, napkins are always put into the collection of silver napkin rings that I've managed to acquire over the past 20 years. Husband Jim started the collection when he bought a box of silver trinkets and inside were two napkin rings -- one with a name and the other with initials.

For us, we do use our napkins for more than one meal, putting them back into the napkin ring and slipping them into a drawer in the baker's rack in the sunroom.
I think tablecloths add a finishing touch to a table much as earrings or a pin add that finishing touch to an outfit.

I don't have scads of tablecloths but I do have enough so that there is always a clean one on the table.

I did notice, growing up, how nice a table looked with a tablecloth and real cloth napkins.

I think my mother would be proud.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

October, The Full Moon and Fairy Cakes

We believe in fairies. We even have a wee house in the garden for the fairies and often, you'll find one in the garden outside the house -- smelling the thyme or cammomile planted there. It's October and during the October full moon you'll find a lot of fairie activity.

Not that we made these cupcakes for the fairies but rather in honor of them. They're from Nigella Lawson, so easy to make and they're on the small side which is why we call them Fairy Cakes.
On Midsummer's Eve, we decorate the cakes with pansies but fall and the Hunter's Moon calls for sprigs of lemon geranium. The lemon flavor of the icing is enhanced by the lemony aroma of the geranium. They even look celtic with the green against the white.

Nigella calls them cupcakes but I renamed them fairy cakes because they are a magical cupcake -- small and easy to put together. They're a favorite at Linderhof whether on Midsummer's Eve, the full moon in October or just because we're having company for tea.

Fairy Cakes
1 stick plus 1 T. soft butter
1/2 cup plus 1 T. sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cups flour
1/2 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder
2 t. vanilla
2 to 3 T. milk
Royal Icing, recipe follows

Take everything you need out of the fridge in time to get to room temperature -- and this makes a huge difference to the lightness of the cupcakes later -- and preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Put all of the ingredients for the cupcakes except for the milk into a food processor and blitz until smooth. Pulse while adding milk the milk down the funnel, to make a smooth dropping consistency.

Divide the mixture between a 12-bun muffin tin lined with muffin papers, and bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes. They should have risen and be golden on top. Let them cool a little in their tins on a rack, and then take them carefully out of the tin to cool in their papers, still on the wire rack.

Ice with Royal Icing

Royal Icing

2 large egg whites (or you can substitute powdered egg white)
3 cups powdered sugar
1 t. lemon juice

Combine the egg whites and powdered sugar in a medium size mixing bowl and whip with an electric mixer on medium speed until opaque and shiny, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the lemon juice, this will thin out the icing. Beat for another couple of minutes until you reach the right spreading consistency for the cupcakes.

This is more than enough to generously ice 12 fairy cakes.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Pumpkin Bread and Maple Butter

A ritual of fall is this yeasty pumpkin bread. Shamelessly, it is not from my oven but rather from The Great Harvest Bread Store. We buy several loaves over the months of fall. We love the pumpkin flavor of this bread whether for afternoon tea, toasted for breakfast, or as a dinner bread.
But I did make the butter -- it's maple butter which goes oh so well with the pumpkin bread. A simple way to add an extra flavor to a meal -- take softened butter (a stick makes a small crock full -- perfect for a loaf) and add two tablespoons of real maple syrup. Stir until mixed. Pack into a white ramekin to serve.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Birds Inside and Out

We love our outside birds and watching their antics from the breakfast room. But we love our inside birds as well. This little silver pair is in the guest room. It's almost as if the bird on top is asking a question of the bird on the bottom and she's ready to hop down to join him.
This bird under cloche is of paper mache and in the cloche next to it is a bird's nest with eggs. This bird looks old but isn't and I love the wee basket in his beak. He seems content to watch over the screened porch.
Two ceramic birds adorn the mantle at Linderhof. Although they are not old, they are copies of older pieces and I'm glad that they lit upon the mantle.
The silver pheasants are on the dining room table during September, October and (with the exception of Thanksgiving when turkeys reign) November. The rest of the year they roost in the basement.

Birds are our friends both inside and out and I love the birds that have flown in to tabletops or mantles to make Linderhof their home. They always remind us of our bird friends outside.

Monday, October 13, 2008

An Asian Feast

With pieces of leftover steak, a few shrimp and shamelessly boughten egg rolls, we enjoyed an Asian Feast. Steak and peppers are a favorite and so easy to do. A few sugar peas to add color and crunch. Husband Jim came home with some huge shrimp -- I butterflied them and then dipped them in a mixture of panko and coconut and fried them.

For dipping sauces, I used Anna Pump's apricot curry mayonnaise and another sauce made from raspberry jam and hot sauce.
With such a feast, we had to share and so invited a friend to share our bounty and a bottle of wine. A slightly sweet Riesling.

We enjoyed our feast in the breakfast room and as we ate watched the birds as they, too, enjoyed their evening meal.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Treats in a Jar

On my back pantry shelf are special jars full of treats. An old fashioned way to preserve fruits to be used in the winter.

The jar on the right holds what we call "Tutti Fruiti" -- brandy, sugar and fruits that marinate to be used over ice cream and pound cake. In Germany, it's called rumtopf and has it's own special container. In France, it's called Bachelor's Confiture.

The jar on the left holds peach cordial -- vodka, sugar and peaches which when done makes a wonderful after dinner sip. (The peaches themselves go into the tutti fruiti jar).

The jar in the middle holds the apricot liqueur -- vodka, sugar, spices and dried apricots. The bonus with that liqueur is that when the liqueur is done and bottled, the apricots can be dried off, half dipped in chocolate and these boozy chocolate dipped apricots make great Christmas gifts in a fancy tin.

I love these lab jars for my concoctions. For you can see the fruits in the jar and they make an attractive display on the pantry shelf.
These treats are certainly easy enough to make and not only do they make for a great after dinner sip but bottled, they make great Christmas gifts as well.

Linderhof Tutti Fruiti

When the first strawberries come to garden or market is the time to start your tutti fruiti. A pint of the very best brandy is poured into the jar, then 2 cups of strawberries are sliced in half and added and two cups of sugar on top of that. Stir every day with a long handled wooden spoon until the sugar is dissolved.

As fruit comes in season, two cups of fruit and two cups of sugar are added to the jar. Pineapple (peeled and cut into cubes), cherries (black and sweet and pitted), apricots (cut in half), peaches (skinned and cut into chunks), and blackberries (added whole).

Wait at least a month for the flavors to marry before adding ladlefuls to ice cream or pound cake.

Grapes are too thick skinned to use -- apples and pears too bland. A handful of blueberries if you wish but no more.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A Fall Salad

Salads of iceburg lettuce and chunks of tomato are just not found on Linderhof's table. Instead we prefer seasonal salads.

Spring finds fresh greens (often from Linderhof's flowerpots), spring onions, baby beets. During strawberry time, slices will find their way onto salads. Baby sorrel leaves find their way to the salad plate.

Summer salads do have tomatoes but fresh garden tomatoes and herb garden basil. Many summer evenings, we'll have salads of mixed baby greens with a picking of herbs from the garden.

Winter salads include fruits rather than vegetables all served on a base of mixed baby greens. Blueberries and bleu cheese, chunks of frozen peaches and feta.

Nuts rather than croutons are sprinkled on top of the salad and dressings no matter the season are always vinaigrettes.

One of my culinary heroes, Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa, has a new cookbook due out at the end of the month, Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics, and I can hardly wait. Thanks to House Beautiful, there was a sneak peak.

One of the recipes intrigued me and with a butternut squash in the bin and fresh arugula from the farmer's market, I made Ina's Warm Butternut Squash Salad with Warm Cider Vinaigrette. It is truly a fall salad both in appearance and taste.

Serves 4

My friend Stephen Drucker described a warm butternut squash salad that he'd been served and asked if I could make one. Why not? I love the interplay of hot and cold plus the sweet butternut squash, tart dried cranberries, nutty Parmesan, and bitter arugula. He agreed that this was as good as the original.

1 (11⁄2-pound) butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and (3⁄4-inch) diced

Good olive oil

1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons dried cranberries

3⁄4 cup apple cider or apple juice

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

2 tablespoons minced shallots

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

4 ounces baby arugula, washed and spun dry

1⁄2 cup walnut halves, toasted

3⁄4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Place the butternut squash on a sheet pan. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, the maple syrup, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1⁄2 teaspoon pepper and toss with your hands. Roast the squash for 15 to 20 minutes, turning once with a spatula, until tender. Five minutes before the squash is done, add the cranberries to the pan.

While the squash is roasting, combine the apple cider, vinegar, and shallots in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the cider is reduced to about 1⁄4 cup. Off the heat, whisk in the mustard, 1⁄2 cup olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1⁄2 teaspoon pepper.

Place the arugula in a large salad bowl and add the roasted squash mixture, the walnuts, and the grated Parmesan. Spoon just enough vinaigrette over the salad to moisten, and toss well. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve immediately

Friday, October 10, 2008

A gift from the prairie

We love to burn candles, our lampe berger, and in the fall and winter, have potpourri simmering on the stove. A favorite potpouri is a simple one, made from ingredients on hand -- orange, lemon and spices.

Not only it is a favorite here at Linderhof, but we enjoy making them for gifts -- they make wonderful Christmas gifts or a hostess thank you gift.

Whenever we're at flea markets, I'm always on the lookout for jars that will hold both a lemon and an orange and I especially like canning jars.

The potpourri is simple -- a lemon, cut in half; an orange, cut in half; 1/4 cup whole cloves, two sticks of cinnamon and 2 bay leaves. Add this to a quart of water and simmer on the back of the stove. Add more water as needed.
When we gift the potpourri, we make a tag that says:

Prairie Potpourri

Cut orange and lemon in half, add to one quart of water with rest of ingredients in jar.