Archive | September, 2011

Mamma Mia Marinara

21 Sep

The first cherry and grape tomatoes in our vegetable garden are usually eaten IN the garden with a salt shaker in hand, and the first slicers are the basis for countless BLTs, Caprese Salad and gazpacho. Now, at the end of summer, the vines are loaded with ripe Romas, San Marzanos and other sauce tomatoes, which must be harvested every few days.

I make marinara almost every weekend for at least a month, preserving the bright summer flavors that we will enjoy throughout winter. The process begins with about 15 pounds of fresh tomatoes, washed, halved and run through one of my favorite Italian kitchen gadgets, the spremmi pomodoro.

This macchina miracolosa separates the skin and the seeds quickly and efficiently. Nothing goes to waste because the hens love the discarded skins and seeds. From 15 pounds of tomatoes I usually get a gallon of sauce for marinara.

To the sauce add roughly ½ cup of olive oil and one head of garlic, peeled and diced finely. Uncovered, bring the pot to a boil and then lower the heat to a high simmer to reduce the sauce to about half.

Simmer for 3 to 4 hours until the sauce has thickened. Add ¼ cup of Italian Seasoning, 2 bay leaves and ¼ cup dried basil and continue cooking on low heat for about half an hour.

When the marinara has cooled I pack it in ZipLock containers, mark and date them, and put them in the freezer. This may seem like a lot of effort, but the result is so incredibly different from any bottled marinara and makes an excellent base for the classic Sicilian Sunday Gravy.

Mangia! Mangia!


Fawn Rescue

17 Sep

Yesterday, for the second time this week, a fawn tried to squeeze through the fence between us and our neighbors. Our property is basically deer-proofed, but this little guy was small enough to get his head, shoulders and front legs through, only to get stuck at the hips.

On Monday, Eddie was in the golf cart on his way to pick up the mail when he saw something move and heard a horrible scream from the side of the driveway. He stopped and found that a fawn was trying to get into the neighbors yard through the fence and was hopelessly trapped. We have no idea how he got into our property in the first place, but there he was. Eddie and his friend John managed to pry the fence rails apart so they could lift the little guy up and through.

Yesterday I was in the vegetable garden and Eddie encountered the same scenario on his way to mailbox. Suddenly I heard this blood-curdling scream (from the deer) and Eddie yelling at me to come up and help him.  This time the fawn was facing the other direction, with his head and shoulders on our side of the fence. This would be a bit trickier, since we didn’t want to get bitten or slashed by his sharp hooves.

My husband, always the engineer, said “We need some tools.” Back in the golf cart and down to the barn for clamps, and then to the garage for cloth shopping bags and dog leashes. Eddie applied some pressure clamps to the fence rails and managed to get the fawn’s head and front legs into the cloth sack, which made him go quiet and still. Then we lifted him up and pulled him though.

Eddie tied up his back legs, put him in the back of the golf cart and we slowly made our way down the driveway, out the gate and to the front of our neighbors’ yard, where the doe was frantically running along the fence line. Eddie lowered the little guy to the street and removed the dog leashes and sack carefully. The wounds on his hips  from earlier this week haven’t healed yet and the ones he incurred yesterday were even more gruesome, but he hopped up and ran straight to Mama.

I didn’t manage to get a picture of him leaving because he was out of there and into the trees before I could focus. But here’s how I imagine them. I hope Mama is giving him an earful…counseling him to not try that again!

Ooh-la-la! Coq au Vin!

6 Sep

Two of my favorite things...chicken and wine!

A few days ago I pulled the last of the Super Sweet Walla Walla onion babies from the garden and harvested the last of the Romano beans. I remembered that I had some leftover parsley-buttered Baby Yukon potatoes in the fridge and decided that all I needed for Coq au Vin was a coq…which I had in the freezer.

Recipe for 2 hearty plates:

2 legs, 2 thighs and 2 wings from a Surfside Chickens pastured broiler, cut in pieces and dredged in flour.
6 large green onions or 12 to 15 pearl onions
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 cans mushroom stems and pieces (in this dish I prefer them to fresh mushrooms)
2 cups dry white wine (most recipes call for red wine…I prefer white)
3-4 Tablespoons vegetable oil
3 Tablespoons Herbs deProvence
Corn starch…al gusto

Cook a few pieces at a time so pan is not crowded.

Prepare the chicken by dredging in flour. Sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper and sauté until golden. Remove chicken pieces from pan, and add whole onions. 

You can see all the lovely brown bits in the bottom of the pan. Don't throw them out!

Sauté until cut ends start to brown. Remove the onions and add garlic. When the garlic just begins to soften, add white wine and stir to remove brown bits in the bottom of the pan.

You can use more or less corn starch to sauce to achieve the consistency you prefer. I like a thin gravy, myself.

Add mushrooms and the water in the can, keeping about ¼ cup in reserve. Add Herbs de Provence and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. Add chicken and onion to sauce, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. If the sauce looks too thick you can add chicken broth to keep it “soupy”.

 After meat on drumsticks begins to loosen from the bone, add cornstarch to remaining mushroom water and mix thoroughly to make a thin paste. Slowly add this to sauce, stirring constantly. (You can make the sauce thicker by using more of the mixture. Add a small amount at a time, cooking and stirring until it gets to the consistency you prefer.) Reduce heat to simmer for about 5 minutes.

I then heated and slightly mashed the parsley-buttered potatoes, steamed and buttered the Romano beans, plated the chicken with the sauce as a gravy over the potatoes, and, yes, I’m going to say it…sorry, I can’t resist…Voila!

Bon apetit!

Can I Get an Ole!

6 Sep

When my daughter Mari, and her business partner, Beth, had the Shade Tree Restaurant  in Chico they made massive quantities of guacamole every day. One of the interesting and delicious things about their guac recipe is that it doesn’t use onion, which can overpower the other milder flavors in the mix. I’ve been using Mari’s technique for many years and have kicked it up a notch with the addition of grated Cotija cheese. Here’s how easy it is.

2 ripe but firm avocados
1 medium tomato, seeded and diced
1 or 2 jalapenos (depending on your heat tolerance), seeded and chopped
1 large clove garlic, finely diced
2 Tablespoons minced cilantro
Juice of 1 lime
¼ cup grated Cotija cheese (a hard, skim milk cheese fromMexico)

Mash avocados lightly to leave good size chunks. Add remaining ingredients and mix. The Cotija cheese is quite salty, so don’t add salt until the guac rests and chills for awhile. Taste prior to plating and salt as needed.

TIP: Keep guacamole from browning by placing plastic wrap directly over the mixture and removing as much air as possible before chilling.

Flautas de Pollo

One of my favorite ways to enjoy guacamole is with Chicken Flautas. Anything fried is fine with me, and RE-fried is even better! Start with 2 chicken breasts, boiled or roasted, salted and shredded. Fry 10 corn tortillas in hot oil until tender but firm.

Place chicken on tortilla and roll up tightly.

Place on serving dish, folded edge down. Heat oil to almost smoking and fry a few at a time with the folded side down until crispy.

Turn 3 times until they are all golden brown.

Serve with guacamole and sour cream.

The perfect cocktail for spicy guacamole!

 And, yes,  the frozen margarita is de rigor! I use Golden Margarita Mix from Costco, which already has the tequila in it. Fill glass with ice, add Golden Margarita Mix and add another splash of Cuervo (unless you’re a lightweight) and a splash of Triple Sec. I use a Vitamax blender and blend on High until it becomes the perfect adult slushie. Salt rim of glass with sea salt and pour cocktail.

Ay yay yay, Mama!