The Week Ahead and a Great Recipe for Stuffed Cabbage!

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What an outstanding day here in Maryland!  Sky is blue, air is cool and crisp,  The day will be perfect for turning off the overworked air conditioners and opening the windows.  Payment indeed for the 7 tornados and torrents of rain that hit us on Friday.  Yes, that was 7 tornados touching down all over from Frederick, MD to Northern VA.  What is going on with our weather?   But today is a gift I am going to take advantage of and head outside to read and take pictures of the garden.

Let’s look at what is coming up this week.  Sorry all, things came up that pushed back my next installment of VGB.  It will be posted at the end of this week.  Last week was a banner week with wonderful books from great authors.  For those who missed it, Saturday’s substitution was Mind Magic by Poppy Dennison. New author, first book in a new series. Loved it! This week will be some new authors for me as well as a continuation of a series I just love:

Monday:                Still Waters, Sanctuary #4 by RJ Scott

Tuesday:                Seizing It by Chris T Kat

Wednesday:          Murder at The Rocking R by Catt Ford

Thursday:              Five Star Review by Lara R Brukz

Friday:                   One Small Thing by  Piper Vaughn and MJ O’Shea

Saturday:               New Vocabulary Gone Bad!

Now for a great recipe that can be used as a main course or secondary dish.  I just love this one. It came from Laura Calder again.  Can’t go wrong  with her recipes or her quirky show French Cooking At Home.  Great taste and the presentation is so pretty! And it is easy to make.  What’s not to like?

Stuffed Cabbage:

Ingredients:

Kosher salt
1 medium or 2 small savoy cabbages (about 1.5 pounds)
3 ounces white bread
About 1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 onions, chopped
1 shallot, chopped
1/4 pound trimmed and chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
A few handfuls fresh thyme, chopped
1 teaspoon quatre-epices, more to taste, recipe below
Freshly ground black pepper
About 1 pound pork sausage meat – I like to use sweet Italian

Directions:

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Salt it generously.

Core the cabbage. Gently peel away the leaves to expose the heart (by heart, I mean the ball of more yellowish leaves at the center which are too tightly packed to bother prying apart). Cut out that core of inner-most leaves and shred to add to the stuffing. Cut the thick ribs out of the remaining leaves (they will look like you’ve stolen a sliver from a pie). Set aside.

Blanch the cabbage leaves for 5 to 7 minutes. Drain, and refresh under ice-cold water. Drain and pat dry with a towel.

Break the bread into crumbs in a bowl, pour over the milk and set aside to soften. Heat the butter and olive oil in a skillet and gently fry the onion and shallot until transparent, about 5 minutes. Add the chopped cabbage, mushrooms, garlic and thyme. Cook another 5 minutes. Add the bread and cook until the milk has evaporated. Stir through the quatre-epices and season generously with salt and pepper. Add this mixture to the sausage meat in a large bowl and mix thoroughly with a fork. Make a small ball and fry it in the frying pan. Taste it to check the seasonings. Adjust as needed.

Lay a tea towel on the counter with a piece of cheesecloth or muslin large enough to wrap the cabbage in. You’re going to reconstruct the cabbage, but with layers of stuffing between the leaves. So, first lay down the large outer leaves, in a circle, slightly overlapping with the prettiest side out. Spread over a layer of stuffing. Lay over another layer of leaves and repeat the action. Continue until you have run out of leaves. Pull up the edges of the cheesecloth, like a bag, and twist, as if making the head of a puppet, to shape the cabbage into a round loaf shape. Tie a string around the beard of cheesecloth where it meets the cabbage ball, to secure the package. The cabbage can be prepared to this stage in advance, refrigerated and then cooked before serving.

To cook: Steam the cabbage over water or good chicken stock (about 2 cups) for 45 minutes. The flavor from the stuffed cabbage will drip into the water or stock and give it the most amazing flavor. When the cabbage is done, boil down the cooking juices and serve a spoonful around each wedge of cabbage in a soup bowl.

Quatre Epices or Four Spices (a common French spice)

1 heaping Tbsp black peppercorns ground
2 tsp whole cloves ground up
2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger

Mustard Pork Roast and the Week Ahead

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Warm and misty and frustrated here in Maryland this morning.  All week I had  been hearing about the moon.   That it was going to be spectacular!  The closest to Earth it has been for a while and that it would appear freakin’ HUGE in the night sky.  I made my preparations.  Camera ready? Check.  Chair at hand? Check!   Finally dark?  Check!   Moon?  Uh, hello? Moon? That would be no!   As in not even a hint of light in the night sky! Nada, zip, nothing!  Clouds?  Yep, plenty of them.  But no moon.  It didn’t help to turn on the evening news and have the chirpy meteorologist post pictures of a fantastic Moon while dishing out his sympathy to those poor smucks (me) who didn’t get to see it due to  CLOUDS not forecast the evening before!  It will be 29 years before the Moon will be that close again and I will be ancient.  But you can rest assured I will be out in front looking for that damn Moon!

I am not the only one here in a frustrated state.  Out back in our small fish pond sings a lonely Leopard Frog.  He made it through the winter and the perilous visits of our Great Blue Heron only to croak out his status as the lone stud of the tiny pond.  Lately he had been croaking less. I guess he didn’t see much cause to continue.   Than I got out the small blue fountain from the shed, assembled it, and filled it with water, confident that our last  frost is gone for the year.  I didn’t notice it had attracted a visitor until later that afternoon.  Sure enough our lonely frog had taken a journey over to the new addition in the garden and found true love.  Here is the photograph to prove it:

Who knows if this love affair will continue?  It  might be very final if he doesn’t get his ass off that elevated fountain and back to the safety of the pond where he might be lonely but will also stay alive! I will let you know what happens.

 

So tonight is a wonderful pork recipe.  The house smells delicious when it is cooking and this dish is always so easy and great tasting.  It calls for pork tenderloins but works just as well with a pork roast.  The sauce isn’t heavy so it works well in spring and summer too.  Thanks to Laura Calder again!

Mustard Pork:

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 pork tenderloins (about 8 ounces) or pork roast about 1 or 2 lbs
Salt and freshly ground pepper
About 3/4 cup Dijon mustard (plain or grainy) I use a combination of both
1 shallot, minced
1 cup dry white wine (use a good wine, I like a Sauvignon Blanc)
1 cup  creme fraiche or sour cream
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F

Rub the oil in a roasting pan. Sprinkle the pork with salt and pepper and rub the pork all over with the mustard. Set it in the pan and pour in 1/2 cup water. Roast until the pork is tender, about 1 hour 30 minutes. (If the water evaporates in the pan, add a little more.)

Remove the pork to a serving dish and keep warm. Fry the shallot in the roasting pan on the stovetop. Deglaze with wine and boil to reduce by half. Stir in the sour cream or creme fraiche and rosemary, and reduce to sauce consistency. Check the seasonings. Slice the pork, pour the sauce on top and serve.  This dish has become a go to recipe here.  You just can’t go wrong with Mustard Pork.

Finally, let’s get to the week ahead shall we?

Monday:                                     Review of Battle of Hearts by Valentina Heart

Tuesday:                                     Review of Fairy Gift by J. K. Pendragon

Wednesday:                               Review of Marathon Cowboys by Sarah Black, our Spotlight author

Thursday:                                   Review of Nature of the Beasty by Amylea Lyn

Friday:                                         Review of The Beast’s Promise by Amylea Lyn

Saturday:                                     Bloggers Surprise as I have decided which book to go with yet.

 

So have a great week.  Check out the latest Vocabulary Gone Bad if you haven’t already! FF and I will see you soon. That’s frustrated frog to all of you.

Poulet au Riesling and the Week Ahead

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Sunday arrives so quickly it seems and its time to get prepared for the week ahead.  Our April is ending in no less confusing manner than the one in which it started.  We had warm, wonderful weather in March so April decided to have an identity crisis as well.  Our weather has been cold , almost frigid, blustery, and finally brought us a measure of rain so badly needed.  If you live in Western Maryland, it also brought about 6 inches of snow, more than we had all winter long.  I am thinking that the tomato and pepper plants will wait until May as usual.  March had fooled me into thinking they could be planted earlier.  No longer.

Monday:                      Review of A Token In Time by Ethan Day

Tuesday:                      Review of One Man’s Treasure, Bellingham Mysteries #4 by Nicole Kimberling

Wednesday:                Review of Face Value (Sanctuary #3) by RJ Scott

Thursday:                    Review of After Anna by Theda Black

Friday:                          New Author Day – Sarah Black and her novels

Saturday:                      Marathon Cowboy by Sarah Black

 

 Poulet au Riesling

 

A sale on chicken meant more new chicken recipes to try out.  This week it is Poulet au Riesling, Laura Calder again, basically chicken in wine!  I know you have probably heard this before, but when choosing a wine to use in a particular dish, always choose one you would drink on its own.  Great ingredients mean great food.  Riesling is not a wine I hear about often.  So when I asked at my local Wine shop, I was directed toward Polka Dot Riesling, a white wine from Germany with a tart fruity flavor and clean finish.  Just lovely, mid range in price, perfect for having a glass while you cook.

Ingredients:

6 chicken legs, split at the joint (or a 3-pound whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon each butter and olive oil  plus more butter for frying
4 shallots, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons Cognac -buy a small airplane size bottle if you don’t otherwise use it.  Works great for 2 recipes.
1 cup  dry Riesling
1/2 cup chicken stock
8 ounces mushrooms, quartered
1/2 cup creme fraiche or sour cream
Chopped fresh parsley or tarragon, for garnish

Directions:

Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat the fat in a saute pan and brown the chicken on all sides, working in batches. When all the chicken is browned, remove it to a plate and add the shallots and garlic to the pan for 1 minute. Pour in the Cognac to deglaze. Put the chicken back in the pan. Pour in the wine and stock, cover and cook until the chicken is tender, about 20 minutes, turning once.

Meanwhile, melt a little butter in a frying pan and cook the mushrooms until golden. When the chicken is cooked, remove it to a serving platter and keep warm. Boil the cooking liquid down to sauce consistency. Stir in the creme fraiche and mushrooms. When hot, taste and correct the seasonings. Pour the sauce over the chicken, sprinkle with the parsley and serve.

The Week Ahead and Another Great Chicken Dish To Try

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It’s a blustery rainy day here in Maryland and the storms from the south are scheduled to arrive this afternoon bringing high winds, more rain and perhaps even hail.  So long to my newly blooming roses and irises in the backyard.  Sigh.  From the 80’s back down to the 60’s, our Spring is having a wild time of it this year and so are my gardens.

Today I finished up my review of Ethan Day’s A Token in Time for Joyfully Jay but my lips are sealed until it is published there first.  So what is coming up this week?

Monday       Review of Bully by Carter Wolf as promised

Tuesday       Review of Earthly Concerns by Xavier Axelson.

Wednesday Review of Levi, Leopards Spots 1 by Bailey Bradford

Thursday     Review of Oscar, Leopards Spots 2 by Bailey Bradford

Friday           Review of Two Tickets To Paradise Anthology by Dreamspinner Press

 

Tonight I am preparing  Chicken in Vinegar, another easy and great tasting chicken dish made from ingredients that most people will have in their pantries.  Again my thanks to Laura Calder (French Cooking At Home) for this easy, great tasting dish with a couple of changes from me.

 

 

 

 

 

1 whole chicken (3 1/2 pounds), cut into 8 pieces or equal amounts of chicken thighs, or legs, whatever you have available.

Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon butter, plus another tablespoon for finishing
1 tablespoon olive oil

6 cloves garlic, peeled

1 cup white wine vinegar
1 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
4 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped or 1  can of diced tomatoes drained
1 bay leaf
1 large fresh thyme sprig
2 good handfuls chopped fresh parsley
DIRECTIONS

Sprinkle the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Melt the butter and olive oil in a saute pan and brown the chicken, a few pieces at a time. You’re not cooking the chicken here, just making the skin crisp and giving it color and flavor. Five minutes per side is about right, more so if you have only dark meat. Remove the chicken to a dish.

Add the garlic and cook for 5 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the vinegar and boil down by half, about 10 minutes. Return the chicken to the pan, and pour in the stock. Add the tomato paste, tomatoes, bay leaf and thyme.  Simmer, uncovered, until the chicken is cooked, about 30 minutes. Remove the chicken to a clean dish and keep warm.

Strain the cooking liquid into a saucepan, pressing to get all the juices through, and whisk in the last spoonful of butter and 1 tablespoon of brown sugar. Pour over the chicken. Sprinkle with the parsley and serve.

I served this with some Quinoa flavored with garlic and basil before and will do so again.  It works so well together.  So quick and easy you will make this a staple.

 

A New Recipe for a Day Spent Writing

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Today I had to hit the keyboard and finish a few reviews for JoyfullyJay where I am a guest reviewer so dinner had to be simple.  My solution?  Chicken Paprika also known as Poulet au Paprika.  Quick, easy, and great tasting, recipe courtesy of Laura Calder, my new favorite chef.

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Ingredients:

4 chicken legs, split between thigh and drumstick or just use the drumsticks
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon bacon drippings or oil
1 red pepper, seeded and cut into roughly 2-inch strips known as julienne
1 onion, sliced
1/2 small fennel bulb, finely chopped (optional)
1 tablespoon high-quality hot or sweet Hungarian paprika
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup white wine
2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons sour cream or creme fraiche
Squeeze lemon juice, to taste (optional)

DIRECTIONS

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat the bacon drippings in a saute pan and, working in batches, brown the chicken pieces on all sides. Remove. Drain off all but a tablespoon of the fat from the pan.

Lower the heat and add the julienned pepper, onion, fennel, if using, and paprika. Cook until soft, but not colored, about 12 minutes, adding the garlic for the final minute. Deglaze the pan with the wine (pour in the wine, scrapping all the good bits off the bottom of the pan). Add the tomatoes and bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper. Put the chicken back in. Cover the pan, and cook, turning the chicken occasionally, until tender, about 30 minutes.

Remove the chicken to a serving platter and cover with foil to keep warm. Turn up the heat under the sauce and boil down to sauce consistency. Turn off the heat, stir through the cream, check the seasonings (including the paprika, adding more if you like), then pour over the chicken, and serve.

Great taste, perfect for dinner.

A Herb and Cheese Souffle Recipe To Love

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It’s been wavering between very warm and seasonally warm here in Maryland and this month looks to go down as our warmest March yet.  And for me, when the temperature is up, I want to eat lighter and this souffle is the perfect meal, no matter the time of day.  It melts in the mouth and tastes like herbed air.  Lovely.

From Laura Calder’s French Cooking At Home show with some minor alterations from me.  Easy to do.  And you will want to make it again and again.

INGREDIENTS

1 cup whole milk
1 bay leaf
1/2 small onion, peeled
Pinch paprika or  1/8 teaspoon (I only use Hungarian Sweet Paprika)
Grated Parmesan cheese, for dusting the dish – bottom and sides
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
3 eggs, separated plus 1 egg white (3 egg yolks and 4 whites)
3 ounces of grated Gruyere cheese
1 generous tablespoon chopped fresh herbs (I use a combo of fresh parsley and thyme, anything else overwhelms the flavor)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS

Put the milk with the bay leaf, onion, and pinch of paprika in a saucepan and bring just to the boil. Turn off the heat, cover, and set aside to infuse 10 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and onion.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter 8 (1/2-cup/125 ml) ramekins or 1 (4-cup/1 liter) souffle dish, and dust with the grated Parmesan cheese. I prefer using the 4-cup souffle dish, but other round overproof dishes work too.

In a clean saucepan, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and cook 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the milk, and cook, stirring, until thick, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and beat in the yolks. Stir through the cheese and herbs. Season well with salt and pepper. If you don’t really season here the dish will be too bland. It won’t be too salty.

Beat the whites to stiff peaks with a pinch of salt. Stir a spoonful into the yolk mixture, then pour the yolk mixture onto the remaining whites and gently fold together. Pour into the souffle dish* and bake until risen and set, but still slightly creamy in the center, about 25 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the souffle dishes. You can usually tell when the top is golden brown and the edges have pulled away from the sides.

Serve immediately before it slumps.

*After you have poured the mixture into the souffle dish, run your thumb (nail against side of dish) around the edges inside creating a channel between the mixture and the dish.  This will help your souffle rise evenly and is a old chef’s trick!  It will make your souffle look so much better.

A Recipe To Love – Pork Chops with Green Olives and Lemons

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I have written about French Cooking At Home, a show with Laura Calder that has become an addiction of mine.  Her recipes are simple but oh so tasty.  I am now working my way through her first cookbook and haven’t found a recipe I haven’t loved.  This latest one came not from her book but from the show.

Once again, Laura Calder has come through with a wonderful receipe.  I tried it out and with a few changes, it came out so scrumptious that it is now on my favorites list:

Pork Chops with Green Olives and Lemons

Ingredients:

  • 2 pork chops, on the bone
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch sugar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 cup/175 ml white wine
  • Skin 1 preserved lemon, chopped (I used the zest of 1 Lemon and that worked just fine)
  • 1/2 cup/85 g green olives, with pits  (I used regular green olives, they worked great)
  • Small handful chopped fresh rosemary or thyme ( I have now tried it both ways, each tastes great).
  • Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
  • Branch cherry tomatoes
  • Olive oil, for drizzling

Directions:

Season the chops with salt and pepper. “Season” also with sugar, sprinkling judiciously over both sides of the chops, as if it were salt. Heat the oil in a saute pan and brown the chops on both sides. Pour over the wine, and add half the lemon and olives, along with the rosemary. Cover, and cook until tender, about 20 minutes. Uncover and test doneness. Boil down the liquid a little, if necessary, toss in the remaining olives and preserved lemon. Serve with the juices spooned over and a branch of roasted baby tomatoes on the side.

To roast a branch of cherry tomatoes: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lay the tomatoes on a baking sheet, dribble over a little olive oil, and bake at until the skins have wrinkled and the fruit is soft, 20 minutes to half an hour.

This is great if you are only cooking for 2 people, and easy to double if you are cooking for 4.  I could also see putting the pork chops over a bed of wild rice.  And that sauce?  My mouth is watering just thinking about it.  Hmmmmm……..so good.