August 19, 2010

Roasting Racks

Sometimes books come along that make you change everything.   One little book reconnected me with the love, purpose and alternative motives that go into cooking.  Thankfully this one little book was tuned into an amazing series known as the Mitford Books by Jan Karon.  Ms. Karon wrote so beautifully that I would be left drooling for crab casserole, orange marmalade cake & The Book of Common Prayer every time I said goodnight to Mitford (her fictional town in NC).  Ms. Karon also released a companion to the series - the Mitford Cookbook and Kitchen Reader.  She compiled the best food passages from 10 of the books with the actual recipes she envisioned being prepared. In the books roasted chicken is Cynthia's thing (the female lead of the story -you will love her, trust me).  The chicken was always received with such admiration that I truly believed it was something very hard to do (this was years ago). When I actually tried roasting I found it was easy, however the flavor was hard to capture. In the "Kitchen Reader" I found the key - the roasting rack.  Forget a metal rack (which every book will insist you need) - try onions!  It is true! All you are trying to do is provide a barrier between the pan and the bird to prevent burning or drying out.  The veggies add the flavor & create an amazing side dish. My roasting racks have now become seasonal. Hope you enjoy!

Summer Roasting Rack
3 heirloom tomatoes, chopped
1 sweet onion,chopped
1 cup of olives, halved
1 pint of heirloom tomatoes,  halved
tablespoon of minced garlic
salt, pepper, tablespoon of herbs De Provence & drizzle of Olive oil
Mix all together in the bottom of your roasting pan.  Place a 5 lb bird on top of the rack with the skin seasoned with olive oil, S&P, & Herbs De Provence and stuffed with a quartered lemon and as much garlic as you want. Roast at 425 degrees for an hour and a half and you will be happy! Let the bird rest, tented for about 20 minutes before you carve.  Serve veggies on the side. If you want to go ahead and add quartered new potatoes to the rack (I normally do).

August 12, 2010

Simple Cucumber Salad

Lemon cucumbers anyone? I had never heard of them until I received them last week. Odd looking, but very tasty. They sent me on a search for a cucumber salad recipe. Not a creamy dill or Asian crunch variety, but the old southern one. The one I have had so many times, but I really never thought about until now. Every recipe I found included a cup of sugar. In our house we try to never add a cup of sugar to anything but a dessert. The following is what I came up with. Healthy, seasonal & very refreshing. Keeping with the simplified theme for the week - Hope you enjoy.

Cucumber Salad
3 to 4 medium cucumbers
1/4 to 1/2 Sweet Onion
Mediterranean Sea Salt
1/4 cup Champagne Vinegar

Peel and remove the seeds from the cucumbers. Roughly dice. Thinly slice the onion and add to cucumbers. Add S&P to taste and toss the cucumber and onions with the champagne vinegar. Refrigerate for several hours & serve. The longer it marinates the better it becomes. Dill would be a welcomed addition.
Also the measurements are purely subjective depending on the size of your cucumbers.
For the record only one of the lemon cucumbers made it into the salad - the other two were quickly devoured!!!

August 8, 2010

Simple is just as delicious

I love spending hours in the kitchen. It's "my thing". I would prefer to cook than dine. I adore the feeling when people truly enjoyed the things I prepare, and when others have the same feeling using my recipes. Not only food, but flowers too. Flowers I can handle, because truthfully I know I can make flowers work. They may not be the most original arrangements of all time, but pretty. Not the same scenario for food. You can work for hours & hours (literally blood, sweat & tears) and there is no guarantee that it is going to be delicious or (in the case of my corn pudding from last Sunday) even edible! Hence the orchid on our kitchen table. Normally I would have come home from the Market with groceries, and many, many flowers. Not today. Not one minute of arranging, just an orchid. And I can admit it is just as beautiful as the arrangements that have sat there before. This week is about simplifying things for me. Maybe I am on the back to school kick, who knows?
With that I am posting a recipe that proves simple is just as delicious.

Katherine's Roasted Okra
(4 to 6 servings)
1 lb of fresh Okra, whole
Olive Oil
Mediterranean Sea Salt

Preheat oven to 425 degrees
Add Okra to a roasting pan and toss in olive oil & salt
Roast for 20- 25 minutes, turning halfway

That is it. I even serve it in the pan. Honestly delicious and could not be more simple. Hope you enjoy. To even make it lighter on weeknights I toss it in cooking spray (rather than oil), salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. OK I am off to work on tagliatelle with fresh corn pesto. Not simple, but I am trying...

August 3, 2010

Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes...

I have become obsessed with tomatoes. My husband is one of those who would rather go to the dentist than eat a raw tomato (even though he loves salsa - go figure). When I finally accepted he wasn't going to give them a try I gave up. I stopped buying them at the farmer's market and only picked them up at the grocery store when needed. Well that was until we joined Grow Alabama. The weekly CSA deliveries have been overflowing with tomatoes. We have had heirloom, hybrid, cherry and varieties that I really had to see to believe (aka green zebra). The taste of a farm fresh Alabama tomato is unbeatable.
I had a night to myself last week and decided tomato salad was for dinner. There is no need for a formal recipe, because basically I used what was around & the outcome was delicious. I alternated slices of heirloom tomato (2, marinated) with slices of grilled eggplant (one small), several dollops of light blue cheese dressing, topped with crumbled turkey bacon (2 slices), fresh basil, okra croutons & S&P. This was my entire dinner, but the proportions would be perfect for two as a side dish. The okra croutons are simply the frozen breaded, sliced okra. I bake them in the oven at 375 for about 40 minutes just coated in cooking spray (we eat this all the time as a side). I think what really kicked this salad up was that I marinated the tomato slices in a dressing of balsamic & champagne vinegar, salt & pepper and fresh basil for about 30 minutes. As I said no recipe is needed because at this point the marinated tomatoes could stand alone as a great salad, and even better with a little goat cheese.
I have also learned tomatoes should not be refrigerated & stored stem side down. Hope you enjoy!!!