What I've been up to

At 1:54AM last night my family, Scott, and I pulled into my parent's garage totally worn out from 16 hours of driving home from our vacation in the Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. Well, really, I would say we were just as worn out from our vacation as from the driving.  We saw and did a ton!  We made my poor parents go on nine mile hikes (when my dad doesn't even walk a half mile for exercise) and take a white-water rafting trip down the Snake River. When we encountered the most difficult rapids, everybody in the raft flipped out and lost their paddles (including the guide) except Scott who lost his paddle, but remained in the raft (kind of scary as well!).  It was quite an ordeal to get everyone safely into the nearest raft, then back into our raft, and finally to continue the rest of the way with only four paddles.  After swimming in the frigid water and having to compensate for the lack of paddle power, my poor little arms were completely fatigued as I tried to paddle the rest of the way with every ounce of my strength.  I could barely lift my water bottle to take a drink at the end of the trip!  The adventures didn't end there though.  On a late afternoon hike around an island with Scott, we were charged by a mama moose as we came around a curve in the path.  We dove into the woods, Scott between the moose and myself, as we tried to get as many trees between us and the moose as we could! (F.Y.I. moose are more deadly than bears!)  Thankfully the charge was a warning charge, as the moose was with her calf and couldn't be away from it too long.  We then waited hidden in the woods with a group of five other people for twenty minutes until the moose and her calf had finished eating and left the sand bar that connected the island back to the main land. I was on edge the whole time as we waited and was so relieved when we got back on the main land away from that moose inhabited island!  

Despite these wild adventures, Scott and I did get some much needed time to relax. The weeks preceeding the vacation had been busier than normal with Scott finishing up his rotation in surgery (no more 4:00A.M. alarms!) and with my coworker gone on vacation to Italy, I had been going nonstop at work.  This is why I haven’t been as frequent with my posts as I would like these last few weeks, and so to tie you over until my next post, I thought I’d show you some pics of some of the things I’ve made but haven’t had time to blog about.

A slice of one of the four sourdough pizzas I made for a progressive dinner (the main course was at our place).  This section of the pizza was brushed with garlic infused olive oil and topped with slow roasted roma tomatoes, roasted onions, asparagus, pistachios, and parmesan cheese.

This was taken underneath the shelter of a blanket hung on long sticks stretching between two picnic tables as rain poured down all around us on an attempted picnic.  While the weather turned out for the worse, the food was great!  Here I grilled a head of bok choy, a beer brat, and morel mushrooms.  I sprinkled freshly grated parmesan on top, and drizzled the salad with a dressing of olive oil, garlic, rice vinegar, and a little red wine vinegar.  The combination of vinegars in the dressing gave the salad just enough tangy pop to draw out and brighten the flavors without overpowering them. Delish!

The topping of the baked French toast I made for a friend from Venezuela who had never had French toast.  While the banana caramel pecan topping tasted delicious, the bananas didn’t look so pretty once they were baked with the orange-infused French toast! (They turned an unappetizing gray-brown.) For a traditional pan-fried French toast, I added a little almond extract to the egg mixture and served it with fresh strawberries and toasted slivered almonds.

Aged-Cheddar Cheese Risotto.  Wow.  I don’t have room enough here to explain how and why this was so stinking good and why I may never make macaroni and cheese again when I can have this.  Macaroni and cheese pales in comparison, in fact, it’s almost invisible.  Scott and I savored every bite of this meal and literally licked our plates at the end.

I impulsively bought an 8 ½ lb. box of “splits” (tomatoes whose skin had split and cracked open) for $6.00 and proceeded to spend the entire weekend in the kitchen making the following things.  Not my original plan for the weekend, but how could I pass up such a good deal?

A sourdough pizza for myself one night while Scott was working call. 

This pizza proceded to fall on the floor, distressed but not defeated, I salvaged what I could and ate a first rate, slightly smaller, pizza.

On Sunday I set to work after church and made three, yes three, different homemade tomato sauces.  A tomato basil, a butter and onion sauce, and a sauce out of pureed slow roasted tomatoes.   Each one was delicious in it’s own right.

Eggplant Involtini, done Italian and Middle Eastern style (Italian pictured)

Roasted cauliflower with parmesan, garlic, crunchy breadcrumbs on a bed of arugula tossed in lemon juice.

One-year anniversary picnic.  Copper river salmon with a crème fraiche coating, homemade roasted tomato gnocchi, and browned butter sweet corn.  Thankfully it did not rain on this picnic!

Until next time!



Flavors of Summertime

In the summer, each time I eat a naturally ripe, fresh fruit or vegetable I think, “Ahh yes, this is what (insert name of fruit or veggie) is supposed to taste like.”  It is in the summer that I stop resenting the fact that my European friends think American cuisine is all about burgers and fries, but instead I defend the juicy, smokey burgers fresh off the backyard grill, warning these friends not to judge a burger’s merit based off of fast food.  Heaven forbid!  In summertime, seasonal ice cream shops open up to feed the masses and little kids run around with mouths colored to match the flavor of their most recent popsicle.  For me, these things represent the flavor of summertime.  The other night Scott and I combined two of these “flavors” using juicy, ripe vegetables and the savory, smokiness of the grill.  What resulted was a delicious bruschetta that was the highlight of our meal.

While this bruschetta would have tasted great by simply tossing it in a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar as I traditionally do, I couldn’t help playing with it and trying something new. Granted, sometimes when I “tamper” with things the result is less than fabulous, but this time the food was enhanced and I would like to share my delicious discovery with you!!

It all started when I came across a post on one of may favorite blogs, Orangette, for making thyme infused browned buttered corn. Intrigued by the rich, nutty taste promised to result from browning the butter, I gave it a try.  We loved it!  Scott could not believe it when I told him the only ingredients were butter, thyme, and salt, insisting there was something else deeper, richer.  He didn’t know what it was, but there was “definitely something there.”   Pleased and curious by what this new trick up my sleeve could do, I decided to try it on brushcetta,  replacing the traditional olive oil dressing with browned butter.  I had a big bunch of basil from the farmer’s market that needed to be used, so I chopped it up as finely as I could and threw it in the pan with the butter.  Once the butter turned amber color and smelled fantastic, I poured it over grilled tomatoes, onions, and eggplant.   I tossed these veggies with crumbled feta cheese, added just a splash of balsamic vinegar to draw out all the flavors, and piled this high onto grilled slices of a sourdough baguette.  Still timid around certain veggies (three of which make up this bruschetta), Scott wasn’t too sure about my bruschetta creation, but when I took my first bite and cried, “Yes!  Success! I did it!” followed by a mini triumphal dance in my chair, Scott decided to take a bite, and when he did, he joined me in my triumphal dance!  Yup, definitely a success. 

Grilled Bruschetta Tossed in Basil Infused Brown Butter and Aged Balsamic Vinegar

Makes about 16 slices of bruschetta

16 ¾ inch slices of a sourdough baguette or any good crusty bread

1 pint grape tomatoes halved (or whatever size tomatoes you have on hand)

¼ tsp dried thyme

1 small onion sliced into ¼ inch rings

1/2 of a good-sized globe eggplant

Extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

3 Tbsp unsalted butter

About ½ cup loosely packed basil leaves or ¼ cup when finely chopped

1½ tsp aged balsamic vinegar or to taste

1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese

Peel the half of the eggplant you are using and slice into ¼ inch slices cutting from the stem end to the round “globe” bottom.  Salt each slice of eggplant and let it sit while you prepare the rest of the ingredients for the grill.  If using a charcoal grill, now would be a good time to light the coals.

Halve the tomatoes and slice the onion and toss both with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle the tomatoes with the dried thyme as well and prepare and aluminum foil “boat” for them to go on the grill (if you have a veggie grill basket by all means use this instead).  Brush the sourdough slices with the olive oil, wipe the liquid that has collected on the eggplant off, and brush the eggplant slices with olive oil.

Grill the sourdough slices, onion rings, eggplant slices, and tomatoes over medium to medium-high heat.  The sourdough will take the least amount of time so put these on the grill last.  Grill the eggplant on one side until grill marks appear and the eggplant has become softer and turned from the opaque white color to a tan.  Turn the eggplant over to grill the other side. Grill the onions, flipping them once, until they are translucent and beginning to brown.  Once everything looks done and tomatoes are soft and “wilted” bring the veggies over to a cutting bored and chop the onions and eggplant to desired size.  If you have a willing (and trusted) cooking partner have them grill these things while you make the browned butter. 

To brown the butter place a small sauce pan over medium heat and add the butter.  Once the butter is melted add the chopped basil and stir frequently until the butter turns dark amber in color and smells quite nutty.  Remove the brown butter from the heat.

Toss the onions, eggplant, tomatoes, feta, browned butter, and balsamic vinegar all together and taste for further seasoning.  Eat warm or at room temperature.


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