Thursday, December 1, 2011

French Onion Soup

I have been thinking about French onion soup all day. I woke up with a hankering for it, and put in a request before I scurried off to work this morning. When I walked into the house tonight at dinner time it smelled ever so lovely. Andy had also made a picture perfect loaf of bread to go with the soup.

This bread was so pretty it looked as if it were made by the props department at Theatre IV. Have I mentioned how grateful I am to have a husband who loves to cook?

We often use the onion soup recipe in the little Williams Sonoma "Soup"cookbook.

Every soup in this book is delicious, and the recipes seem really well-tested. The finished dish usually looks as good as the picture, which I find to be rare.

This soup takes patience, as it begins with a huge pile of onions that are cooked and caramelized until they practically disappear. It's not a thin watery soup, but rather a thick and hearty textured soup with a beautifully complex flavor.

Andy ladled the soup into oven proof bowls, topped with a slice of that picture perfect bread and some shredded Gruyere cheese and put it in the broiler until it was all melted.

Don't skimp on the cheese. A cheap, soapy flavored Swiss does not cut it! Buy the real cave-aged Gruyere. It's a little on the pricey side, but everything else in this recipe is very inexpensive so it balances out.

We eat this soup as a main course, but it makes a wonderful appetizer as well. It comes together very quickly in the broiler, and it looks gorgeous. You can make it a day in advance and it tastes even better the second day!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Home Made Ice Cream! For Lazy People.

Andy Cleveland was way over-prepared for our onslaught of Halloween revelers this year. I think he bought 3 big bags of candy, and even we have not yet managed to eat it all, a whole week later. We had 2 little visitors this year, which is a 200% increase over last year's attendance. This isn't a great neighborhood for sending your little ones out to beg for candy, unless you plan to cover them in armor to divert stray bullets and shield against crazed motorists. I usually just turn out all the lights, close the curtains and hide until spring. I guess since I married Andy I'm feeling more gregarious.

I didn't think Andy could ever tire of chocolate, but he seems to have lost interest in the big bowl of Kit Kats, Rollos and York Peppermint Patties.

I saw this recipe a while ago on a blog called Kevin and Amanda. It's home made ice cream that you make with no churning, which makes my lazy heart sing!

Three ingredients is all it contains--heavy whipping cream, sweetened condensed milk, and any flavor of your choice. How could I not try this? And what a great way to use up Halloween candy!

First I tried to chop up York Peppermint Patties in the little Cuisinart. I stuck the candy in the freezer thinking it would break up into little neat chunks more easily. This was not to be. The patties just swirled round and round in the Cuisinart, remaining perfectly intact and threatening to burn out the motor. I ended up cutting them up by hand.

Then I mixed them into the sweetened condensed milk.

Eezy-Schmeezy. Lazy-Schmazy is more like it.

I whipped the cream into stiff peaks, then folded it into the condensed milk mixture.

Poured it into a container, covered it and stuck it in the freezer.

I can't wait to see how it turns out!
I think it would be a great way to glamorize foods that are not good on their own, like fruitcake.
Imagine fruit cake on its own.
Okay, now imagine it chopped up and used to flavor some ice cream.
See? Are you getting my drift?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Brilliant Gift!

Emma, Matt and Tom got us the greatest Christmas gift this past year. They bought us six shipments from Dominion Harvest, and we just got our first one last Thursday. The bright red box was sitting on the front porch when I came home for lunch and in it was: asparagus, oyster mushrooms, kale, broccoli, blackberry jam, baby swiss cheese, and this gorgeous butter lettuce pictured above. Every two weeks we'll get a new care package. How great is that?

Dominion Harvest purchases foods from local, sustainable farms and delivers it to your door. You can check them out at

Friday, May 13, 2011

Just What the Hell IS Cream of Tartar?

My mom had the same tin of cream of tartar for my entire childhood. It was made of actual tin, perhaps fabricated by peasants in Wales during the iron age. I remember thinking it was retro looking as a kid in the 1960's.I used to shuffle it around to get to the more popular spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. Never knew what it was for, and I'm still not sure it's necessary for anything. Next time I need a wedding gift, I am going to give a tin of cream of tartar. I will attach a note saying, "I wanted to give you a gift that will stand the test of time, as I'm sure your marriage will. Think of me when you use this. I understand that will not happen very often!"

Brightening a Corner Can Be Just the Beginning

Today in Jackson Ward, where I work, there was a gigantic crew of people volunteering all around the neighborhood to pretty it up. I walked out the back door of my building to find our stairwell had been power-washed and was now being weatherproofed by the volunteers. Then I came around to the front of the building to see a team weeding, mulching and planting flowers!

This is a great neighborhood absolutely rich with black history, and I am fascinated by the stories and the characters and the architecture. But it is also still very much on it's way up, but not "there" yet. I don't exactly know what I mean when I say "there." There is a lot of gentrification happening here, and I don't always look upon that favorably, especially if it displaces poor people. But I digress...

I am just happy to see some loving care directed at anything and everything around here. I find that brightening up one corner can change the direction of a whole neighborhood. Case in point is this huge mural that's being painted at West Broad and Brook and Adams, right by Theatre IV.

This empty corner had nothing to offer but two walls, a phone booth and a bunch of garbage. Now it's going to house a work of public art that celebrates the beautiful fabric of this neighborhood--something that everybody can enjoy, young and old, rich and poor.

Perhaps this will inspire more acts of artistic sharing here in our promising gallery district. I can't wait to see it finished and to post a picture!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

"Loser" Curry

That is what Andy called this dish tonight.

If it's made with anything that smacks of convenience it goes into the loser pile. "Convenience" in this case just means curry powder that is bought pre-made, and not roasted and ground by Andy.

Never you mind that it looks like a hot mess in this picture. All I know is that it tasted yummy and it took about 20 minutes to knock together.

We sauteed chopped onion, red bell pepper and zucchini in a big knob of butter until it was beginning to get soft. We added leftover chicken (from last night) and added chicken broth, cream and Jamaican curry powder. In a separate saucepan, I brought some chicken broth to a boil, added some lemon zest and threw in some couscous to have with the curry.

It was very tasty and we sat on the back stoop, ate our dinner and watched birds with the cats. Andy Cleveland had 2 helpings, which puts it in "winner" curry status.

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Comforting End to My Least Favorite Weekday

Monday is always my worst day of the week. I am always functioning (or malfunctioning) on a sleep deficit and cooking a complicated meal for dinner is the last thing I feel like doing. A roasted chicken is such an easy and economical thing to make, because not only do you cook Monday's dinner, but you are halfway to Tuesday's as well. Buying a whole chicken and getting 2 or 3 meals from it makes my thrifty heart sing.

If the thought of roasting a whole chicken seems daunting to you, fear not. It is one of the easiest and foolproof things you can make. It looks and smells gorgeous, and it's very homey and comforting.

I massaged this one with olive oil, then salted and peppered it. Into a dutch oven it went with a quartered fennel bulb, a quartered lemon, about 6 cloves of garlic and some sprigs of fresh thyme and rosemary. I covered it and put it in a 375 degree oven. Andy and I went for a hot sweaty walk with our friend Jenny while the bird cooked. By the time we got home, which was about 90 minutes later, the house smelled incredible! I uncovered the chicken, laid a big fistful of asparagus on top, and replaced the cover for 10 minutes to steam the asparagus. Then I turned up the heat to about 450, and removed the lid to crisp up the skin and reduce the liquid.

If you really want to go all out and make this more substantial, make gravy out of the drippings and serve it with mashed taties on the side. The flavors of the herbs in the juice are divine. But you'll have to go to somebody else's blog to learn how to make gravy, because my gravy sucks. I can take the best ingredients and turn them into a gravy that you could stick up wallpaper with. Gravy is just not in my skill set at this time.

I nearly dropped the chicken on the floor when I removed it from the pan. It was so tender, it was falling off the bone. I let it rest for about 10 minutes to allow the juices to return to where they belong, then we served it up with the asparagus and fennel on the side. Mercy sakes alive, it was so good. Have you ever tasted fennel cooked in roasted chicken juices? Wow.

Tomorrow, something with leftover chicken, vegetables and couscous--not sure what, but I'll keep you posted.