Friday, December 30, 2011

Cranberry and Blue Cheese Crostini

I hope you’ve been enjoying the holidays and have found some time to relax a little. We’ve been on the road between homes and are back in sunny Florida where we’ll ring in the new year.

Our condo is having a little festive get-together around the pool for New Years Eve and I plan to take a Cranberry and Blue Cheese Crostini as an appetizer. The recipe is inspired by my friend Jann of Traveling Food Lady who recently featured a Honey Rosemary Cherry and Blue Cheese Crostini. Jann owns a touring company in Italy & France and has a wonderful blog. She recently took a group of ladies on a fabulous trip where they stayed in four star hotels and spent their time shopping, doing food and wine tastings (among other things) in the hill top villages all over Tuscany. Sounds like a dream trip doesn’t it?

I took Jann’s crostini idea and replaced her cherry mixture with my winey French cranberry sauce, and voila, a super easy holiday appetizer.

You could also serve the crostini as a chic little first course to a grander meal.  My French cranberry sauce recipe has appeared several times on my blog and all you need to complete the recipe is to toast some slices of a crusty French baguette, top the toast with fresh arugula, then a dab of cranberry sauce, and finish with a slice of good blue cheese and a crank of freshly ground black pepper. A little more cranberry sauce doesn't hurt on top either. For a festive touch, garnish with a sprig of holly from your garden or the florist.

I hope 2012 brings each of you good health, much happiness, and lots of delicious food. This year, as always, I will be making the same two New Year’s resolutions I make every year:

1 – Remember to think before speaking. Feelings are everywhere – be gentle.
2 – Do not eat anything in the kitchen while standing up. (Excludes tasting while I cook of course!)

Happy 2012 everyone. I’m curious - do you make new years’ resolutions or do you say forget it, they’re not worth it?

From the archives  - Ideas on how to Ring in the New Year with Good Luck

I will be linking this recipe to Foodie Friday at Designs by Gollum and Pink Saturday at How Sweet the Sound.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

There’s no place like home for the holidays

There’s no place like home for the holidays. Season's greetings to you and your family from the beautiful mountains of North Carolina where pretty rural stone barns on farms such as this one all decked out for Christmas still dot the landscape.

Merry Christmas

Joyeux Noël

Felix Navidad

Froehliche Weihnachten

Buone Feste Natalizie

Happy Hanukkah

From My Carolina Kitchen 
Sam & Meakin 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Clementine Galette

Clementines are a cute little type of mandarin oranges that were developed in Spain. They are seen in markets from November until March. Although they are grown in other places, I believe the ones from Spain are the most flavorful.

The first time I tasted a Clementine I was in line at a check-out counter in a supermarket at Christmas time. The man behind me had a box of Clementines in his cart. The line in front of me was long and for some reason that I can’t remember now, I turned to him, pointed to the box of little oranges in his cart and asked, “Are those good?”

“You’ve never tried one?” he asked with a surprised look on his face. He turned and, with his fingers, ripped a little hole in the mesh covering the Clementines and took one from the wooden crate and proudly handed it to me. “Try this,” he said. “Clementines are one of my very favorite Christmas fruits and I promise you that you will always remember the first time you tasted a Clementine.”

He was right and since that day every year I look forward with great anticipation to my first sighting of the bright blue boxes with mesh covering the little sweet orange Spanish Clementines around the holiday season. Most of the time we peel them with our fingers as you would a Navel orange and eat the segments out of hand. I especially like them with dark chocolate as a simple dessert. Here I’ve used them in a Galette over tart raspberry jam. I took a short cut and used a purchased pie crust, but homemade would be even better. Next time I’ll put the Clementines a little closer together. As you can see in this close-up below, by the time they finished baking they were further apart than I would have liked.

If you’ve never tasted a Spanish Clementine, give them a try and maybe you too will remember your first taste as fondly as I do. If they are already one of your favorite seasonal fruits, here is just one more way to enjoy them during their short winter season.

Clementine Galette
Adapted from The Fresh Market – Serves 4

4 – 5 Spanish Clementines
1 store-bought pie crust or homemade crust, brought to room temperature
2 tablespoons of a good raspberry jam
2 tablespoons Turbinado sugar, plus more for sprinkling
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Slice the tops and bottoms off of the Clementines and set them on one of the cut surfaces. With a sharp knife, cut the peel and pith off in downward strips around each Clementine to reveal the flesh. Cut into 3 thin slices across the width, making round wheel slices. Remove any seeds. Sprinkle the Clementines with the Turbinado sugar on both sides, taking special care not to allow the slices to fall apart (which they will want to do), and set aside.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and unroll pie crust on top of the paper. Spread an even layer of the jam on top, making sure to leave a two-inch border from the edge. Lay the Clementine slices over the top of jam. Fold dough edges over and brush folded dough with the melted butter, then sprinkle the entire galette with more Turbinado sugar. Bake for about 25 – 30 minutes or until crust is golden brown and center is bubbling.

This recipe will be linked to the fabulous Foodie Friday party hosted by Designs by Gollum. Enjoy this stunning live poinsettia tree at the Bell Tower Shops in Fort Myers, Florida.

Apologies for the photos. We don't have our normal computer, but hopefully we'll be back to normal soon.  Who knew you should have a spare.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Start your morning off right with this 3 ingredient Cranberry Maple Syrup

If you are as fond of cranberries as I am, you will love this recipe for cranberry maple syrup. The tartness of the cranberries is offset with the sweetness of the maple syrup, making this a very versatile year-around syrup for pancakes. With only 3 ingredients, it couldn't be more simple.

I actually hoard cranberries in my freezer and use them throughout the year. For this recipe frozen cranberries work just as well as fresh ones. Be sure to use the best quality maple syrup you can find, because the imitation syrup, to my taste, has a faux flavor and not worth using.

I’ve served the syrup over cornmeal pancakes, but use any pancake you like. Wattles would also be delicious. If you are looking for a homemade gift idea, the deep ruby red syrup would be very festive in a pretty glass jar tied with a holiday ribbon.


Cranberry Maple Syrup
Coastal Living Magazine – yield 1 cup

¾ cup pure maple syrup
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries, divided
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Bring maple syrup and 3/4 cup cranberries to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low, and simmer 3 minutes or until cranberries pop. Crush cranberries in saucepan using a spatula or potato masher. Stir in remaining 1/4 cup cranberries; simmer just until they begin to pop (about 2 minutes). Remove from heat, add butter, and stir until melted. Keeps well covered in the refrigerator.

Cornmeal Pancakes
Adapted from Joy of Cooking – yield twelve 4” cakes

1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon sugar
1 cup boiling water
1 large egg
½ cup milk
2 tablespoons canola oil or other neutral flavored oil
½ cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder

Combine the cornmeal, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. Pour boiling water over the mixture, stir will, cover and set aside for 15 minutes.

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, milk, and oil until combined. After 15 minutes, add the cornmeal mixture from above and stir until smooth.

Meanwhile in a small bowl, combine the flour and baking powder. Stir into the hot cornmeal mixture. If the mixture seems a little thick, stir in a bit of milk.

Heat a pancake griddle or 12” lightly oiled skillet until hot. Drop the pancake batter by spoonful’s onto the griddle. When the pancakes begin to bubble in the center and start to dry around the edges, turn and cook until done. The second side takes only about half as long as the first side and never browns as evenly, so serve them first side up.

Remove the cakes from the griddle and keep warm in a pre-heated 200 degree F oven while you make the remaining cakes. Do not stack the cakes or they will become soggy. When all of the pancakes are done, serve immediately.

This recipe will be shared with Foodie Friday at Designs by Gollum and Pink Saturday at How Sweet the Sound.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas at the Waterside Shops in Naples, Florida. I hope you’ll enjoy this glimpse of the lovely holiday decorations among the swaying palm trees and beautiful water fountains at this very classy, best-in-class shopping destination that features such stores as Nordstrom, Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany, Kate Spade, Michael Kors, Salvatore Ferragamo, Guicci, Cartier, De Beers, and Saks Fifth Avenue. Whoever said you can't get in the holiday spirit in sunny Florida hasn't been to the Waterside shops.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Ambrosia, a Quintessential Southern Dessert

As a child of the Deep South, ambrosia was always among the desserts my grandmother served at her holiday table. According to Greek and Roman mythology, ambrosia is food of the Gods.

An internet search revealed there are a lot of different ambrosia recipes, some containing apples, pineapple, sour cream, Cool Whip, marshmallows, or pudding. The Deep South Southern ambrosia I recall from my youth was a simple dessert consisting of seasonal winter citrus, such as oranges and grapefruit, garnished with flaked coconut. This is my best recollection of my Nanny’s ambrosia. The addition of the dried cranberries and a splash of Grand Marnier are my own. It's best served during the winter months when citrus fruits are at their peak. Even after all these years, my grandmother's recipe is timeless and contemporary.

Serve in your finest crystal bowl, or as I did in this case, a bowl from Meakin’s mom’s Early American Feather Glass collection. Food of the Gods deserves the best.

Southern Ambrosia 
Serves 6 to 8

3 ruby red grapefruit
6 – 7 Navel oranges
A small handful of dried craisins (dried cranberries), optional
½ cup flaked sweetened coconut or more to taste
Splash of Grand Marier, optional
Fresh mint for garnish

With a sharp knife, remove the peel of the grapefruit and oranges and discard. Over a large bowl, remove the individual sections (called supremes) of the citrus with a knife, letting the juices and the sections fall into the bowl. Drain the juices and save for breakfast or cook’s treat.

Soak the dried craisins if using in a bit of hot water to plump, then drain well. Add the craisins to the citrus supremes, along with about a half cup of flaked, sweetened coconut or to taste. I added a splash of Grand Marnier for extra flavor, but it’s neither traditional nor necessary.  Add a sprig of fresh mint for garnish, or julienne the mint at the last minute and add just before serving.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Favorite Thanksgiving Recipes

French Cranberry Sauce 

It’s been a wild and crazy week. Between dashing to appointments with a very talented decorator at Pottery Barn (a fabulous experience by the way) and pulling the condo together for the season, I don’t feel like we’ve even stopped to catch our breath. What a shame too because the weather in south Florida in November is absolutely delightful. Not too cold, not too hot, and the traffic isn’t enough to make you want to pull your hair out just yet.

Last night I had a little panic attack when I realized next Thursday is Thanksgiving. As usual Meakin’s advice is right on. “Don’t worry,” he said, “just rely on our old standards, which is what most people prefer for Thanksgiving anyway.”

And so it is. We’ll have a traditional oven roasted turkey, a French cranberry sauce simmered in red wine that I’ve made for thirty years, a version of my mother’s Southern cornbread dressing, and baby English peas with butter and rosemary. Dessert will be Bahamian sweet potato pie spiked with a healthy dash of dark rum for an island twist. Simple enough and easy to pull off. Besides, our favorite Thanksgiving food is really a turkey sandwich shared between the two of us before we turn off the lights in the kitchen and go to bed Thursday evening.

On Friday I’ll make one of our favorite fall soups – pumpkin squash, which is what I did last year. It can be made ahead and slowly reheated after a Friday morning shopping spree if you’re so inclined to visit the malls. You most definitely won’t find us there. My first career was in retail management and just thinking about shopping on the day after Thanksgiving gives me a major headache. But for others, it’s exciting to snap up bargains and get your Christmas shopping out of the way early, so I say more power to you. The economy will definitely thank you.

Pumpkin Squash Soup

The details and the recipes can be found by clicking the various links. I’ll be sharing our Thanksgiving favorites with Foodie Friday at Designs by Gollum and On the Menu Monday at Stone Gable.

What are your plans for Thanksgiving? Are you, like us, serving old favorites or are you spreading your wings and trying some new recipes?  Will you be staying home and doing the cooking or are you going to visit family or friends? Whatever you do and wherever you go,  we wish you and your family a very happy Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

An Elegant French Green Bean Salad from the Périgueux Region

November has always been my favorite month in the fall. In the mountains, the leaves have changed, there’s a nip in the air, and it’s cool enough to build a fire in the fireplace. When we lived in the islands, in November the humid days seemed to all of a sudden disappeared and the heat of summer was magically gone and replaced with gentle cooling breezes. The same is true on the Gulf coast of south Florida. November also happens to be the month we were married and that alone is reason enough to love November don’t you think?

I find in the fall I crave what I call “transitional” foods, the kind of foods that bridge the gap between hardy cold weather foods such as braises and stews and light summer entrees. This elegant little French green bean salad is an excellent example of a perfect starter for an autumn dinner.

In southwestern France in autumn the walnuts of Périgord grow in the Dordogne and the Lot regions and during September their markets are full of fresh walnuts. In early October the bulk of the crop is gathered when they fall to the ground and are dried and made into walnut oil, one of the most distinctive flavors of the region.  This green bean salad is especially delicious paired with another local specialty of the region, foie gras.

If you can’t find French haricot vert as shown above, slender green beans will work. However, I don’t recommend pole beans. This is a French salad with foie gras, so we want it to look elegant, n’est-ce pas? Walnut oil is available in most supermarkets and specialty stores or substitute a good extra-virgin olive oil. Make sure to store any nut oils in the refrigerator after you open them because they turn rancid if left on a shelf in a warm cabinet just as any fresh nuts will do.

Salade de Périgueux or salade d’haricot vert
Adapted from “The Food of France” by Sarah Woodward

1 pound of French green beans (haricot vert), or any slender green beans, topped & tailed
Sea salt
2 tablespoons walnut oil or extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
Freshly ground black pepper
A small handful of freshly shelled walnuts, broken in half or crumbled in large pieces
2 ounces foie gras

Bring a saucepan of water to boil with plenty of salt and very gently boil the beans for about 6 minutes. They still should be green and fairly crisp. The exact time will depend on the size and freshness of the beans, so taste regularly.*

As soon as the beans are cooked to your satisfaction, drain them and dress immediately with the walnut oil, lemon juice, and freshly ground black pepper even if you are serving them later. When it’s time to assemble the salad, season with a tiny bit more sea salt, scatter the walnuts over the salad, and top with thin slivers of the foie gras.

*Cooks notes: Take care not to overcook the green beans. They should have a good bite with no discernible crunch and taste “cooked” but definitely not mushy. They can go from cooked to over-cooked very quickly, so it's important to stay close and taste, taste, taste as you go during the final few minutes.

I will be sharing this recipe with Foodie Friday at Designs by Gollum and On the Menu Monday at Stone Gable.

What I'm reading.

“Touching, thoughtful, hilarious, and exquisite in its observations, French Lessons—Ellen Sussman’s day in Paris with a wonderful collection of characters—is a treat. . . . Très charmant!”
—Meg Waite Clayton, author of The Four Ms. Bradwells

Friday, October 21, 2011

My Carolina Kitchen Celebrates its 3rd Blog Anniversary

I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you who has stayed with me and read my blog along this incredible journey for the past three years. I had no idea when I started blogging what a wonderful experience it would be. I’ve met so many wonderful people and your friendship means the world to me. I also could not have done this without the help of my fabulous husband Meakin, who is my photographer and my best friend in the world.

For those of you who have blogs of your own, you know how scary it can be to push the “publish” button for the first. Fortunately I wasn’t alone when I took the plunge. It was late in October of 2008 when a group of members of the North Carolina Writers Network in western North Carolina attended a workshop on “How to Start a Blog” in the computer room of a local library. The workshop was conducted by Glenda Beall, at the time the Netwest Coordinator for our area. Glenda has two popular blogs of her own, Writing Life Stories and Writers Circle Around the Table. I felt a little out of place surroundedy by poets such as Nancy Simpson and Brenda Kaye Ledford, both who had previously published poetry books. But with group support, we all jumped into the world of blogging together. And the rest, as they say, is history.

I primarily post two kinds of stories – food and travel. Here are a few of the most popular posts during the past three years. Please click on the link to see the original post.

Most Popular Food Posts

Most Popular Travel Posts

Again, thank you and merci beaucoup to each and every one of you for your wonderful support and generous comments. I could not have done without you. I will be taking a short intermission and plan to return in early November.

Cheers! See you soon. I will be linking this to Foodie Friday at Designs by Gollum and On the Menu Monday at Stone Gable.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Cheerwine, BBQ and NASCAR - It's a Carolina Thing

I wrote this story a couple of years ago for the North Carolina Writer’s Association as one of my contributions to an anthology about North Carolina. Cheerwine, as you’ll read below, is a burgundy color cherry cola drink similar to Dr. Pepper or RC Cola, Coke, or Pepsi. The distribution of Cheerwine has widened through the years and you can often find it where NEHI soft drinks are sold. I’ve read that most Fresh Markets now sell Cheerwine. You can also click the Cheerwine link to see if it available in your area. Feel free to substitute the cola of your choice if you can’t find Cheerwine. This is a versatile BBQ sauce that is good on chicken or pork.

Nothing says Carolina like Cheerwine, BBQ and NASCAR

Cheerwine, first bottled in 1917, is still a popular soft drink in North Carolina. Although this burgundy colored cherry soda with lots of bubbles is the red color of grapes, it doesn’t contain any wine or alcohol. During that era it wasn’t unusual to give it such a name. Other soft drinks of the time, such as ginger ale and root beer, combined a flavor description with the name of an alcoholic beverage. Cheerwine is as much a part of North Carolina culture as BBQ and NASCAR.

BBQ is serious business in North Carolina and there can be heated discussions on which sauce is the best, eastern or western style. Along the coast, easterners insist that their vinegar based sauce is the original American BBQ sauce and, when being served a pulled pork sandwich, it’s not unusual to be asked if you would like slaw on it. On the other hand, high in the western mountains, aficionados prefer a thicker tomato based sauce.

NASCAR and racing have deep southern roots in North Carolina. Well known NASCAR race car driver Junior Johnson, born in rural western North Carolina in 1931, was behind the wheel of his daddy’s pickup truck at eight. When he reached fourteen, he became part of the family business and delivered moonshine throughout the backwoods. Johnson was an aggressive driver and often found himself in the winner’s circle when his fellow moon shiners held informal races in their souped-up delivery vehicles. With a number of unofficial wins under his belt, Junior entered professional stock racing and went on to win forty seven poles and fifty NASCAR Winston Cup series races. In 2000 he was inducted into the North Carolina Auto Racing Hall of Fame.

The heart of NASCAR country is in Charlotte, North Carolina. In 1949 NASCAR held its first strictly Stockcar Race at the Charlotte Speedway. Lowe’s Charlotte Motor Speedway, the one and a half mile super speedway, is where most drivers now call home. 

Tailgating before the races is part of a rich tradition for NASCAR spectators. Sometimes tailgating parties can last for days as fans gather around for simple, hearty meals cooked and served outdoors and prepared on either elaborate grills towed behind their trucks or the more simple Weber types. Southern-style BBQ meats play a starring role in the camaraderie of this ritual. Meals can range from being served on fancy linen tablecloths with silverware to simple help yourself foods piled high on paper plates. So if you’re headed to a NASCAR tailgating party, whip up a batch of this tasty western style Carolina BBQ sauce using Cheerwine instead of moon shine. Take it along to baste your grilled pork or chicken.

Combine three cups of Cheerwine, one and a half cups of ketchup, one quarter cup of apple cider vinegar with a couple of cloves of chopped garlic, and one teaspoon each of chili powder, ground cumin, dried oregano and paprika. Add one quarter teaspoon ground allspice, a couple of healthy dashes of Worcestershire sauce, and season with salt and pepper. Place in a saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about forty-five minutes or until thickened. Allow to cool. To perk up the flavor, add a little squeeze of fresh lemon juice, hot sauce to taste, and check for salt and pepper. Makes two to three cups. Use to baste pork or chicken during the last fifteen to twenty minutes of grilling. Feel free to add your own special touches. That’s the fun of BBQ - making it your own.

Cheerwine, BBQ and NASCAR. It’s a Carolina thing. 

I will be linking this to Foodie Friday at Designs by Gollum and On the Menu Monday at Stone Gable.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Bruschetta with Sautéed Sweet Peppers and Creamy Gorgonzola

If you’ve been looking for a bruschetta that’s different from the normal tomato topping, look no further. The Barefoot Contessa has come to the rescue with this recipe for sautéed sweet peppers and creamy gorgonzola.

The peppers can be prepared in advance and the bruschetta assembled at the last minute, making it perfect for entertaining. It’s excellent not only as an appetizer, but also for lunch with soup or a salad.

I highly recommend slicing the peppers thinly so they fit on the toasted bruschetta and aren’t inclined to fall off. The creamy gorgonzola can be replaced with a soft, creamy goat cheese if you prefer. The combination of flavors is awesome and not too filling.

Another Barefoot Contessa winning recipe that’s not only beautiful to look at, but delicious as well. Thanks Ina.

Bruschetta with Sautéed Sweet Peppers and Creamy Gorgonzola
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa’s Back to Basics by Ina Garten

Extra-virgin olive oil
1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into thin strips
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and sliced into thin strips
½ teaspoon sugar
Splash of good balsamic vinegar, optional, my addition, not Ina's
1 tablespoon capers, drained
2 tablespoons julienned fresh basil leaves
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Crusty French baguette
3 ounces creamy gorgonzola cheese, or creamy goat cheese if you prefer, at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Heat 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil in a medium non-stick sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the peppers and cook until soft, about 12 to 15 minutes. Sprinkle with the sugar and continue to cook for 2 more minutes. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar to deglaze the pan, then stir for a moment and add the capers, basil, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and give it a final stir. Can be made a couple of hours ahead at this point. Reheat gently when ready to make the bruschetta.

Slice the baguette crosswise into 18 thin round slices. Brush the bread rounds lightly with the olive oil on one side. Arrange them in rows, oil side up, on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and toast in the oven until lightly browned, about 7 to 10 minutes.

Top each toast round with a teaspoon of the pepper mixture. Place 2 small pieces of cheese on top. Return the toast to the oven for 1 to 2 minutes and warm through. Serve right away. Makes 18 appetizers.

I am linking this recipe to Foodie Friday at Designs by Gollum and On the Menu Monday at Stone Gable.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Potato Latkes with Smoked Salmon, Crème Fraiche, and Caviar – or “How to Spoil Someone Rotten”

You may remember I said last week that while I’m recuperating Meakin was spoiling me rotten. Well, this is what “spoiled rotten” looks like.

Here my loving husband turned the simple potato latke into a decadent treat topped with smoked salmon, crème fraiche, and caviar. Latkes can also be served with applesauce or plain with a salad for lunch. Feel free to substitute sour cream for the crème fraiche if you can’t find it in your market. Or better yet, make your own with this super simple recipe using heavy whipping cream and buttermilk.

Warning. This is a very rich dish, so try not to overindulge. While I can’t claim it’s diet food, the good news is that the latkes are baked, not fried in oil as most recipes call for. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how crisp the latkes are. If you like to do some of the work in advance, the latkes can be prepared ahead and stored, covered, in the refrigerator overnight and simply reheated in the oven the next day.

“Spoiled rotten” just got a whole lot easier.

Potato Latkes
Adapted from Eating Well

3 teaspoons neutral tasting oil, such as canola
2 lbs. russet potatoes, peeled
¾ cup finely chopped red onion (1 medium)
¼ cup all-purpose white flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 large egg white, lightly beaten

Set oven racks at middle and lower positions. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Prepare 2 baking sheets by brushing each sheet with 1 teaspoon of the oil.

Using a shredding blade of a food processor or a hand grater, grate the potatoes. Place in a large bowl and add the onions, flour, salt, and pepper. Toss with clean hands to mix well. Add the egg, egg white, and the remaining 1 teaspoon oil, and toss again to mix.

Drop rounded tablespoonfuls of the potato mixture onto the prepared baking sheets and press lightly to form cakes. Bake for 10 minutes, or until golden brown on the bottom. Turn the latkes over, switch the position of the baking sheets, and bake for about 5 minutes longer, or until golden brown.

Transfer the latkes to a platter, arranging brown side up, and serve. Makes about 24 latkes. Top as desired, or serve plain. Latkes may be prepared ahead and stored, covered, in the refrigerator overnight. Reheat in the oven at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes.

Join me later in the week at Foodie Friday at Designs by Gollum, Pink Saturday at How Sweet the Sound, and On the Menu Monday at Stone Gable, where I will link this recipe.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Sweet Bell Peppers with Vinegar and Oregano

Farmer’s markets and vegetable stands are overflowing with colorful sweet bell peppers this time of the year. There are so many things you can do with them, from roasting in the oven to a quick sauté that I present here. This recipe is one of my standbys when I want something that can be prepared in advance and served at room temperature. Plus it’s gorgeous to look at. The original recipe calls for using only yellow bell peppers, but I couldn’t resist mixing in some red and orange ones for extra piazza.

Sweet Bell Peppers with Vinegar and Oregano
Adapted from Cucina Fresca, Italian Food Simply Prepared by La Place & Kleiman- serves 4

4 yellow sweet bell peppers, preferable a combination of yellow, red, & orange
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon dried Mediterranean oregano
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Fresh oregano leaves for garnish

Cut the peppers in half lengthwise and remove the stems, seeds, and membranes. Slice into ¾-inch-wide strips. Cook the bell peppers in the olive oil in a skillet, covered, over low heat for about 8 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent the peppers from browning. The peppers should have some crunch to them. Add the vinegar, sugar, dried oregano, salt and pepper, and stir. Cook another 2 to 3 minutes, uncovered. Remove to a platter and garnish with fresh oregano leaves if desired. Serve at room temperature.

I will be linking this recipe to Foodie Friday at Designs by Gollum and On the Menu Monday at Stone Gable. Be sure to drop by and get inspired. I know I always do.

In the last week you may have noticed that I’ve been “missing in action” so to speak. For the past two years I have suffered from chronic back pain. Unfortunately there’s no silver bullet or magic operation that can fix my back problems. If there was, I would have been the first to take advantage of it. I am very much of a “can do, get-it-done” kind of person and take charge of problems the moment that they arise with vigor and determination, charging full speed ahead and getting it over posthaste. If only it was that easy this time. The only way to take charge of this kind of back pain is to accept my limitations and learn to live with it. Not an easy pill to swallow for me knowing I can’t do the things I used to do.

The good news is that I am greatly improved from two years ago when I received my diagnosis and it’s all thanks to a wonderful pain management physician and physical therapy. But I still can’t stand or sit for any length of time without pain, which has slowed me down considerably. I also wish I was able to post to my blog more frequently than I do, but as much as I enjoy it, it’s just beyond my capabilities.

To further complicate matters, last week I had a surgery unrelated to my back problem that also came with restrictions. My mother always taught me to do as I was told with no argument (yep, you guessed it - she was a teacher). So I’m being a good girl and following the doctor’s orders. Hopefully I’ll soon be back to normal. Well, as normal as I can be with chronic pain. Thankfully I have my loving husband Meakin taking good care of me and doing a great job of spoiling me rotten. For now I miss visiting your blogs and will drop in as often as I can. In the meantime I’ll be sitting around recuperating and watching the grass grow.