Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Scallops with Mushrooms and Asparagus

I bought more asparagus. What can I say? It's so fresh, and so delicious, and then there's Aldi with their beautiful, economical produce, and big bags of asparagus with delicate stems. Sigh. So, like it or not, you're going to be treated to more recipes that feature this versatile vegetable.

This recipe, adapted from one I found on serves one (and that would be me), but can easily be doubled, tripled, etc. to serve a family.
 Scallops with Mushrooms and Asparagus

6 spears thin asparagus
4 large crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 clove garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 large sea scallops, cleaned
Freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of salt
1/3 cup dry white wine
2 teaspoons white-wine vinegar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Trim asparagus, then cut stems into 1-1/4-inch-thick diagonal slices, leaving tips whole.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch heavy nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté asparagus, stirring occasionally, until just tender. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a plate. Sauté mushrooms, adding a drizzle of oil, if needed, for 3-4 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook for an additional minute. Transfer mushrooms and garlic to the plate with the asparagus, reserving skillet off heat (do not clean).

Pat scallops dry and sprinkle with pepper and salt. Add 1 tablespoon oil to skillet and heat over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté turning over once, until browned and just cooked through, 3 minutes per side. Transfer scallops to a plate and keep warm.

Carefully add wine and vinegar to skillet and boil, scraping up brown bits, until liquid is reduced to about 2 tablespoons, 1-3 minutes. Add any scallop juices accumulated on plate and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and whisk in butter.

Add reserved vegetables, and cook until heated through, 1-2 minutes.

Serve scallops topped with asparagus and sauce. To serve as a main dish, as I did, serve on top of thin spaghetti.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Crunchy Chicken Casserole

Casserole, casserole, how do I love thee, casserole? A lot, I can tell you. I have been so busy that the thought of cooking even a “meal for one” seemed daunting. There is a lot that needs doing when someone leaves this earth, and I have been tackling a portion of that every day. I've also gone a bit crazy cleaning, organizing, and painting, exhausting myself in the process. Last week, I kid you not, I moved a full-sized recliner from the lower level, up a staircase into the upper level, all by myself. It was foolish of course; one might even say crazy. I was one of them, particularly when I got three steps from the top and thought I'm not going to make it. I stood there, braced against the steps and the chair, feeling bruises starting to form for about five minutes before I took a deep breath and muscled it the rest of the way to the top. I was one proud girl, I can tell you.

Responses to my feat of hoisting this bulky beast up a staircase were varied.

Son #1: Are you kidding me!?!?  You should have let me do that.

Son #2: Dang! That's awesome.

Dad: Raised his eyebrows as the color drained from his face.

Where am I going with this? Before I moved the chair, I put this casserole together, covering it, and storing it in the fridge until it was time to bake. When it was time for dinner I was so glad that I could crawl into the kitchen, pop this into the oven, and have dinner ready in half an hour. With school starting, you'll want to have a family pleasing casserole at the ready to bake as well. This is the one.
Crunchy Chicken Casserole

1 ½ to 2 cups cooked cut up chicken (I used a rotisserie chicken)
1 cup diced celery
1 8-oz. can sliced water chestnuts, drained
2 cups chow mein noodles
2 Tablespoons chopped green pepper
1 3-oz. can French fried onions (reserve ½ cup for topping)
3-4 spears Melissa’s Hearts of Palm, sliced into ¼” coins
1 can cream of mushroom soup

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Spray a 1-1/2-quart casserole with Pam; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients except reserved onions. Spoon mixture into casserole, spread evenly to edges, and sprinkle with reserved onions. Bake uncovered about 30 minutes until bubbly. Serves 4.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Slow Cooker Bourbon Chicken

Two words: Bourbon. Chicken. What more could you possibly ask? Oh, how about Slow Cooker? This incredibly good dish is made easy in a slow cooker while you get on doing what needs to be done.​ It slowly scents the house, tempting you while it is cooking, and pleases even the pickiest of eaters because of its complex and inviting taste. Rich, spicy, slightly sweet, you don't need to like bourbon to love it!
Slow Cooker Bourbon Chicken
  1-1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs

½ teaspoon freshly grated ginger
3 large cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon red chili flakes
⅓ cup pineapple juice
1½ tablespoons honey
¼ cup dark brown sugar
¼ cup ketchup
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
¼ cup water
¼ cup Bourbon
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce

3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons water

4 scallions, sliced into 1" diagonals, for garnish

Remove all fat from chicken thighs and place into the bottom of a medium-sized slow cooker. Mix the next 12 ingredients together and pour sauce over chicken. Cover and cook on the "Low" setting for 4-5 hours.
With a slotted spoon, remove chicken to a cutting board and shred or dice into bite-sized pieces; set aside.
Combine cornstarch and water and whisk into sauce until it begins to thicken. Return chicken to the pot and cook until heated through.
Serve over rice and garnish with scallions.

Serves 3-4.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

French Riviera Tablescape

Has this not been the longest summer ever? It seems like it's been eight months long if it's been a day. The heat and high humidity set in during the first week of June and never let up. I know I'm not alone in being very eager for cooler weather.
Because I am absolutely itching for fall, this will be my last summer tablescape. I just cannot wait to get into the warm autumn colors.
A couple of weeks ago when I wrote about the lovely chargers I was given by Marigene Purcell of In the Middle of Nowhere blog, I also mentioned that she had included with the plates, some lovely tablecloths as packing. I showed you one of them here, and this setting features yet another.
Being a big fan of the blue and yellow combination, this made me feel cheery and as if I were vacationing in the south of France. 
To give a nod to the Riviera, I added these starfish plates with edges in light hints of blue.
The cobalt flutes (first mentioned here) have been getting a workout of late, and look particularly festive here.
This summer has had me mad about lilies, with this centerpiece no exception. The vase is from a lovely arrangement given to me when Jim passed away, so has special meaning for me. It looks perfect here full of yellow Asian lilies.
I use these yellow goblets a lot. I have no idea as to the manufacturer, and no hint is given on the bottom. These were given to me by my mother about 25 years ago. They tend to go with pretty much everything, short of patriotic or Christmas colors.
The small carafes my son and I ran across when we were cleaning out Mr.O-P's storage locker. (I'd mentioned previously about finding this very cool jug from Spain as well.) He had an entire case of them! (Don't ask me why.) So, I brought them home, washed them up, and thought they would be perfect for serving individual portions of infused water.
The blue and white salt and pepper shakers were a purchase made when I was in college. I still love them.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Lemon Poppy Seed Zucchini Bread

I am a HUGE fan of the lemon/poppy seed combination, from cookies, to muffins, to quick breads, and even my favorite, pancakes. I have a friend who feels the same way I do, and so was only too happy to share her latest lemon poppy seed recipe with me, this one for zucchini bread. Can you imagine? I mean, zucchini bread is moist and delicious on its own, but to combine it with lemon and poppy seeds? It is truly heaven on a plate.
Lemon Poppy Seed Zucchini Bread

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup sour cream
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon oil (optional)
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 large eggs
1-1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup grated zucchini (one small zucchini)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350° F.
Grease and flour an 8 ½” x 4” loaf pan; set aside.
In the work bowl of a stand mixture, cream together butter, sour cream, sugar, lemon juice, and lemon oil until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.
In a separate bowl place the flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder, and lemon zest, whisk to combine. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet mixture and stir to combine. Do not over mix.
Fold in the zucchini, vanilla extract, and poppy seeds until evenly distributed. Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pan and bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until loaf tests done. Let cool for at least 10 minute in pans before removing to wire rack to cool completely.
For the Glaze:
The loaf is fine as is, but if you choose to glaze it as I did, combine the powdered sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl and whisk until smooth. Drizzle over the bread and garnish with lemon zest, if desired.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Pimiento Cheese Quiche

My love for pimiento cheese is legendary. Well, maybe not legendary exactly, but pretty darned close. And when I am not testing new recipes for making pimiento cheese (see here and here), I'm thinking up ways to turn it into a tasty main dish as I did with this Pimiento Cheese Mac and Cheese. The other day I was wondering what else I could possibly do when I hit upon the idea of quiche. I used the basic components of pimiento cheese, a basic quiche recipe, and came up with this amazing bit of deliciousness. 
Pimiento Cheese Quiche

One pie crust (your own or purchased)
3 large eggs
2/3 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
1 Tablespoon Duke’s mayonnaise
Salt, to taste
Pinch of cayenne
2-4 drops hot sauce
8 ounces sharp cheddar, grated
1/3 cup chopped scallions

Place pastry into a 10-inch deep-dish pie pan. Crimp the edges, poke the bottom with a fork, and place the pastry in the freezer for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line the pastry with aluminum foil and pastry weights and bake about 15 minutes, or until lightly browned.* Remove from the oven and remove the aluminum foil and pastry weights; return the pastry to the oven to bake an additional 5 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, milk, mustard, mayonnaise, salt, cayenne, and hot sauce until thoroughly blended. Place grated cheese into the bottom of the baked pastry, top with the chopped peppers and scallions, and spread evenly over the bottom of the pastry. Pour the milk/cream/egg mixture over the top. Bake in the center of the oven until the filling is golden and puffed, and is completely baked through, about 40 minutes. You can check for doneness by giving it a jiggle to make sure that the center is solid rather than liquid-y.

Remove from oven and let set for 15 minutes before slicing and serving.

* In the absence of pastry weights, I line the pastry with foil and then put a smaller-sized glass pie pan on top and bake it this way.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Memory Tablescape

Mr. O-P was a fan of neutrals. In fact, I often have to laugh to myself when I think about the 1995 film “Get Shorty” (the first we saw together as a married couple), where Bette Midler walks into Gene Hackman's apartment, looks around and says, “My favorite color...putty.” That was Mr. O-P. So, I was mindful of that when I put together this table setting in his honor.
 He was not the fan of tabletop “excess” that I am, so I tried to keep things simple and meaningful. Paying homage to him, his past, and his studies.
The black plaid placemats were purchased at a local shop called Three French Hens and are extremely versatile. They make up the first layer here.

The spice colored dinner plates are from Pier One.
 Topping them are these wonderful salad/appetizer plates featuring illustrations by William Hogarth (1697-1764).
 Hogarth was an 18th-century English painter, critic, social commentator, printmaker, and editorial cartoonist. Mr. O-P's specialty was 18th-century British literature, history, as well as bookmaking (the actual making of books, not placing bets), printmaking, and periodicals.
 When I found this set of plates at Williams-Sonoma, years ago, I was absolutely thrilled. It's hard enough shopping for men, I think, but Mr. O-P was particularly difficult, and these seemed so fitting.
 He was very pleased, as you can imagine, as was I because, hey, more plates! We kept these on display and easily accessible because we often served snacks with cocktails, and being neutral, they went with everything.
 The cups and saucers are part of my rather meager collection of restaurantware, these being Incaware. I love these cups and use them every day for my morning coffee.
 The knobby glassware is from Uncommon Goods, a fun catalog filled with unique items.
 The centerpiece features an old jug that he bought while in Spain back in the 60s. I had forgotten all about this until my son unearthed it during one of our cleaning expeditions. It seemed the perfect addition.
 The books are from the 18th century, and a part of my husband's collection and now, I guess mine. He'd have been horrified, I am sure, to see them on the table, but they were only there briefly and then put back onto their specially designated shelves. The eyeglasses were his.
This little salt and pepper set belonged to his mother, as did this coffee pot, a part of a rather large tea service. The silver has all but worn off, but I like it just the way it is.
 My sister-in-law, now gone, along with all of the rest of Jim's siblings was quite concerned as to what would happen to her mother's tea set. Mr. O-P and I talked about this, and I was more than willing to ship it to whomever he saw fit when the time came. No, he told me, no one would love it the way that I do, so it was already in the proper hands. I'm sure his mother would have agreed.