Red Pears

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Haiti was my first experience living overseas.  We didn’t live in the capitol city of Port au Prince, but in the southern town of Les Cayes, about 12-13 hours over unpaved roads, about 190 km (118 miles).  But we were young and the trip was an adventure.  We thought it was so cool to have to ford rivers, sometimes getting stuck in the middle and then being pulled and pushed out by the very friendly locals.  Ah youth!  Idiots :D

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Because Les Cayes was in the “deep” country, there weren’t a lot of supermarkets.  There was one, a sort of general store that sold everything from pesticides to take out sandwiches, often side by side.  Most shopping was done in the country farmers’ market. It was in these local markets that my love affair with Haiti hit shaky ground.

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Cows, pigs and goats were slaughtered and butchered in open fields at the markets. It wasn’t that I didn’t know where meat came from, it was just that I was used to buying it on a styrofoam tray, wrapped in plastic, with a descriptive label.  Even back then, presentation was an issue for me.  I didn’t know what part came from where and every newly butchered piece of meat looked the same to me.  I would just choose a likely looking lump, take it home and try to cook it.  I hated not knowing what I was getting.  I still hate that.

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I bought some red pears at the Super Duper market yesterday.  The sign above, rather redundantly, said “red pears”.  I thought the tiny sticker attached to each pear would enlighten me but it just said U.S.A.  Were these Bartlett, Anjou, Bosc, Concorde, Starkrimson, Williams???  Not that I know a lot about which varieties of fruit are good to cook with, but I could always look it up on the internet.

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I mean, what if I had never heard of or cooked spaghetti squash(my first time was in Sens) and when I saw it at the Scranton Farmers’ market, it just said “yellow squash?”

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Imagine what my reaction might have been when it fell to pieces in shreds and strings after cooking!  A perfectly good yellow squash tossed into the garbage bin!  Hello supermarket people!  We, the other people, need to know!

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Anyway, let’s get back on track.  I saw this marvelous recipe for spaghetti squash on the internet that sounded delicious and I wanted to make it or a reasonable facsimile thereof. Such wonderful ingredients; spaghetti squash, garlic, fresh basil, spinach, tomatoes, mozzarella!

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I went rogue immediately by crisp frying some chopped bacon that was languishing in the refrigerator, then toasting the chopped garlic in the bacon fat.  I added the bacon because it existed, but it wasn’t necessary.  The original recipe, Spaghetti Squash Caprese is wonderful as it was written.  I call my version Spaghetti Squash Capricious :)

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My husband mounded an unsightly amount of this casserole on his plate for lunch!  I was pleased ;)

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I’ve always thought that my favorite color was blue but I’ve changed my mind.  Red is my new favorite.  I mixed the red pears with red potatoes, white onions and green thyme whose scientific and common names will remain as anonymous as they were when I bought them.

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I bought the smoked pork chops at the Alpine Wurst and Meat House (German butcher). He purchases his meat locally and smokes selected cuts in house.  The chops were delicious as usual.

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Spaghetti Squash Capricious

1 large spaghetti squash

1/3 cup chopped bacon

2 large garlic cloves, chopped

2 handfuls spinach, chopped

3 tbsp fresh basil leaves, chopped

4 plum tomatoes, cut into chunks

2 tbsp olive oil

3/4 cup mozzarella plus extra, as much as you like, for topping, grated

Salt and pepper

Pierce the squash with a cooking fork on four sides, then roast for 40 minutes at 375 F, turn, and roast for another 40 minutes.  Remove the squash from the oven, cut off the stem end, cut in half lengthwise, remove the seeds and slimy stuff, then scrape with a fork and remove the spaghetti like threads to a large bowl.

Cook the bacon in a skillet until brown and crisp, then remove and drain on a paper towel. Add the garlic to the skillet and briefly toast.  Put the bacon, garlic, spinach, basil, tomatoes, olive oil, the 3/4 cup of mozzarella, salt and pepper in the bowl with the squash. Mix well, then pour into a baking pan, sprinkle with the extra cheese and bake at 375 F for 30-40 minutes.

Baked Smoked Pork Chops with Pears and Potatoes

1 large onion, cut into 8 wedges

2 red pears, cored and cut into 8 wedges

1/2 -3/4 lb red potatoes, sliced thickly then halved or halved and sliced thickly :D

Several sprigs of thyme

Salt and pepper

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp brown sugar

4-6 smoked pork chops

Mix the onion, pears, potatoes, thyme, salt, pepper and olive oil in a large bowl, then pour into a baking pan.  Roast at 425 F for 15 minutes, stir and sprinkle with the brown sugar, then top with the pork chops.  Return to the oven for 20 minutes, then turn the pork chops over and continue cooking for about 15-20 minutes more.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in American, Cooking, Food and Wine, Main dishes, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Masala

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Wakeful in Wayne County, Pennsylvania, I mentally reviewed some of the great produce I bought at the Scranton Farmers’ Market, thinking of Indian masala.

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I still had some Tuscan kale and pretty, little red potatoes that remind me of apples when they are sliced.

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I remembered a large package of chicken gizzards that kept waving at me each time I opened the freezer and resolved to include them in my melange.

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As the masala started to come together, my husband could not stay out of the kitchen.  I should have used his distraction to ask for something utterly expensive.  Like a diamond bracelet.  Next time :)

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This time I just took the picture, poured him a glass of wine and handed him a plate full of rice and masala. He was glad.

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Chicken Gizzard and Potato Masala

1 lb chicken gizzards, halved

1 bay leaf

1 thick slice of onion

2 cups chicken broth

Salt and pepper

4 tbsp ghee

2 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp fennel seeds

1 tsp cinnamon powder

1 tsp crushed red pepper

1 large onion, processed into a paste with 3 tbsp water

1 1/2 inch fresh ginger and 6 garlic cloves, processed into a paste with 4 tbsp water

1 tsp garam masala

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp sugar

2 cans diced tomatoes

8 small red potatoes, cut into eighths and boiled for 10 minutes.

2 cups Tuscan kale, chopped

Bring to a boil and simmer the gizzards with the bay leaf, onion, chicken broth, salt and pepper.  Drain, reserving the broth and set aside.

Melt the ghee in a wok and cook the cumin, fennel, cinnamon and crushed red pepper until aromatic.  Add the onion paste and continue to cook for about 8 minutes.  Add the ginger/garlic paste and continue to cook for about 5 minutes.  Stir in the garam masala, tumeric and sugar, blending well.  Stir in the tomatoes, gizzards and reserved broth,  bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes.  Add the potatoes and continue to simmer for 15 minutes.  Finally, add the kale and cook until wilted.

Serve with rice or chapatis.

 

 

Posted in Asian, Cooking, Food and Wine, Indian, Main dishes, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 27 Comments

The Regular Farmers’ Market

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The regular farmers’ market is in Scranton, a pleasant drive, about 25-30 minutes from Honesdale.

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It’s big and the vegetables plentiful, varied and pretty.  They have, wait for it, fresh borlotti beans!

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They call them cranberry beans and they seem to be a bit larger than the French borlotti but peu importe!  I cooked some today and froze the rest for later :)

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The market also had Tuscan kale which I’ve never heard of or seen.  Alien!  And also normal hakurei turnips that I knew about :)

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What-a-relief!

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Bavarian essence rubbed pork rib roast from the German butcher.  Gina assured me that all of his meat is sourced locally :)

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We’re living high on the hog here in Pennsylvania, baby :D

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Bavarian Pork Rib Roast

1 5-6 bone pork rib roast

Bavarian essence

Score the fat on the roast top, then rub Bavarian essence all over.  Refrigerate overnight. Place the roast in a tajine, cover on, in a 375 F oven for 1 1/2 hours.  Remove cover and continue to roast for 30 minutes.

Hakurei Turnip and Tuscan Kale Stir Fry

6 hakurei turnips, cut into cubes

1 1/2 tbsp olive oil

1 cup cooked ham, coarsely chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

2 cups Tuscan kale leaves, chopped

2 bay leaves

2 tbsp white wine vinegar

Salt and pepper

Brown the turnip cubes in the olive oil.  Add the ham and garlic, then cook until the garlic is aromatic.  Add the kale, bay leaves, vinegar, salt and pepper, then cover and steam for 4-5 minutes.

 

 

 

 

Posted in American, Cooking, Food and Wine, German, Main dishes, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

Muffuletta in Honesdale

 

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This was probably the best loaf of muffuletta bread I’ve made.  I don’t know how it happened.  Perhaps it was my disregard of rising times because I was too busy wandering around town and the Dyberry Cemetery behind the house.  Pardon the artificial light; my husband, Jade and Laura (old, old friend and house guest) rather churlishly refused to sit in the dark while I got the shots, and I refused to use automatic.

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I would like to thank my ingredients; King Arthur bread flour, Morrell Snow Cap Lard and good old reliable Fleischmanns yeast.

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Last but by no means least, I’d like to give all praises to my Pennsylvania Kitchenaid that I whined my husband into buying, even though I have one just like it in France.  Without this machine, you’d be looking at this sandwich on Wonderbread :D  I do not knead nor do I need to.

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No baker, I do love to see the miracle of rising dough.

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Mah-velous.

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For recipes

 

Posted in American, Cooking, Food and Wine, Recipes, Sandwich | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Big Yellow Taxi Syndrome

 

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“Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone?”  I bought a frozen rabbit a while back, nostalgic for France.  It was so expensive!  And I thought quite small.

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When I thawed it today before cooking, it seemed so small that I wondered if it was squirrel instead of rabbit because you see, unlike in France, the head was missing.  So now I understand the French obsession with head on rabbits.  “One never knows, do one”?

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Anyway.  I had a long chat yesterday with Gina, owner of a furniture consignment store on Main Street.  We discussed our concerns about the quality of food products in the U.S.  She and her husband both grew up on farms and continue to feed themselves and their children from their own garden.  She had great tips on meat and fish products.  Such a nice lady!  Guess what I found on the porch this morning?

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The last thing I expected to find in the pantry of a Pennsylvania “home girl” was homemade hot pepper sauce.  We had some with butter baked chicken wings last night that were delicious with the sauce!  No vinegar overkill, just fresh, spicy, green delight! The local Mexican food restaurant should take note.

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In addition, Gina canned some chillies and stewed tomatoes.  I decided to use the tomatoes and her gorgeous onions and carrots in a “little” rabbit stew.  I’m saving the chillies for nachos :)

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Remember garlic bread?  I finally did yesterday.  I have not made it for years, but was inspired by the necessity to rescue a “baguette” I purchased on Main Street.  Baguettes are hard to make and the only good ones I’ve had were in Niger and France.

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Sprinkle in some garlic powder or crush fresh garlic cloves into softened butter, then slice the loaf, spread on the butter and bake in aluminum foil at 425F for 15-20 minutes.

A Little Rabbit Stew

1 rabbit, cut into quarters

Salt and pepper

2 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, halved and sliced

2 carrots, halved and sliced

2 celery branches, halved and sliced

1 can chicken broth

Water to cover

1 bouquet garni

4 dried juniper berries

1 handful fresh parsley

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

2 carrots, halved and sliced

4 large potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

1 quart homemade stewed tomatoes

2 cups fresh green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces

Season the rabbit with salt and pepper, brown in a large stock pot with the olive oil, remove and set aside.  Add the onion, carrots and celery to the pot and cook until the onion is soft.  Pour in the chicken broth, water and add the bouquet garni, juniper berries, parsley, salt and pepper, bring to a boil, then simmer for 1 hour.

Remove the bouquet garni and toss.  Remove the rabbit pieces, separate the meat from the bones, chop and put back into the pot.  Add the carrots, potatoes and the stewed tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes.  Add the green beans and simmer for an additional 10 minutes.

 

 

 

 

Posted in American, Cooking, Food and Wine, Main dishes, Recipes, Soup | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

In Case of Famine

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I always worry about not being able to find or not having enough of some cooking ingredient, spice or whatever.  Probably because I spent a lot of time in countries where this always happened.  So that’s why.

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Olive Salad

 

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Oxtails with Gravy

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Yesterday at the Super Duper Market, I saw an enormous, tomato juice sized can of “turkey gravy” made by the Campbell’s soup company.  Well!  I called my husband over and pointed out this travesty of cuisine and all he said was “uh-huh”.  And that’s when I knew, after 38 years of marriage, that his mother probably bought canned gravy for the holidays.  She was no cook, but that’s neither good nor bad, it just is.  Not to embarrass him further, I quickly changed the subject by pointing out the variety of pretty apples and mentioned apple pie :D

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I left my pressure cooker in France because good cooking equipment is more expensive and harder to find in France than in the U.S., so I bought another one just like it for the house here.  While heating up the pressure cooker, I noticed that the pressure button was not rising.  I’m a fraidy cat when it comes to pressure cookers, so I called my husband to see what he thought.

He:  Tap it with a knife

Me:  I’m afraid to tap it with a knife

He:  I’ll tap it.

He tapped it and the button rose immediately, the hat on the steam spout began to rock gently and normal cooking began.  While waiting around, I looked at the Q&A section of the pressure cooker guide and was so surprised!

Me:  Hey, the guide book says if the pressure button doesn’t rise, tap it with a knife!

He:  I wrote that book.

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Making gravy, or roux as it’s called by sophisticated Lou-ezee-ana Creole people, is so easy but like white or hollandaise sauces, the preparation has been practically deified by egotistical, I-love-myself chefs, scaring the “bejesus” out of most common, everyday cooks. Not you Jamie.  To make one cup of gravy you’ll need 1 tbsp of fat(preferably left over from some meat you browned), 1 tbsp flour and 1 cup of water or broth or even milk.  Heat the fat, add the flour, then cook and stir/whisk over low heat until the flour is browned to your liking. Continuing to stir/whisk, slowly add your liquid until you have a smooth, well blended sauce.  At this point you’ll want to add salt and pepper, bring it to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the gravy has thickened.  Normal gravy takes about 10-15 minutes to cook.  I don’t know about a roux, I think it takes days :D

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Unpacking and sorting continues.  My husband rented a dumpster for a couple of weeks to fill with packing materials and the sometimes bizarre objects we have accumulated over the decades.  Today, through no fault of our own, he had to throw Jesus in the dumpster. When we bought the house we inherited a peeling, deteriorating, plaster, garden statue of Jesus.  In its condition, it was neither spiritual nor inspiring, just ugly.  A good Roman Catholic, he did feel a little bad.  I hope the oxtails helped.

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Oxtails with Gravy

4 lbs oxtails

Salt and pepper

3 tbsp olive oil

2 onions, sliced

2-3 large garlic cloves, slivered

Numerous thyme sprigs

2 bay leaves

3 tbsp flour

2 cans beef broth

Season the oxtails with salt and pepper, then brown in a skillet in the olive oil on every side.  Remove the oxtails and place in a pressure cooker.  Place the onions, garlic, thyme and bay leaves on top.

In the same skillet, brown the flour, then add the beef broth to make a gravy.  Bring to a boil, simmer for about 3 minutes, then season with salt and pepper to taste.  Pour over the oxtails, then pressure cook for 45 minutes.

Serve with rice or orzo or noodles.

 

 

 

 

Posted in American, Cooking, Food and Wine, Main dishes, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , | 31 Comments