Saturday, August 10, 2019

Don't forget the forks.

Could you stand it if I just rambled along in this post without much focus? 

Did I hear someone say, "Isn't that what Dewena does in every post?"

Well, it's going to be worse than usual because I'm in that marvelous exhausted  state of loopy euphoria that means we've just had a whirlwind but wonderful visit from our granddaughters--oh yes, their parents came too.

It was only for one night this time but we crammed as much talk and laughter in it as possible. However, I didn't get one single picture of our darlings. Hence the picture of the vinegar bottle above, another Sparrow Lane Vinegar, this time their Gravenstein Apple Cider. I could drink this stuff!

I had meant to think of a clever way to talk about the simplest salad recipe possible. Took the pictures, coming up zero on the clever. So here it is anyway...

When you have a handful of ripe little sweet tomatoes a day, go pick some.

 Don't forget to check the volunteer vines from last year's plant, growing in the gravel. They're the sweetest, for some reason.

How they've survived with BreeBree and James Mason trampling on them, I'll never know.

"Who, me?"

Cut a jalapeƱo, snip some chives, cut a few cukes--or confess that you bought them at a local farm stand. 

 Slice and snip and toss them in a pretty bowl that you've first poured some of that marvelous apple cider vinegar in, with a little special sea salt stirred in. Do you know this one from Trader Joe's that they carry during the holidays? 

 I ration it all year long.

This salad is so easy and it looks like I'm about easy at this stage in my life. Even my simple Ismail Merchant recipe for the salad below, link here, I've only made once this summer.

Oops, recipe Here!

What was my menu going to be the one night we were expecting our family in Friday night? It had to be easy and nothing's easier than a pot of spaghetti sauce you can let simmer all afternoon.

Ever tried this tomato basil sauce?

 We love it and watch for it to go BOGO at Publix.

Here's something you can't find at Publix, it came all the way from Crete to me on my birthday and it's the most heavenly aromatic herbs I've ever used (sparingly of course, want it to last).

And then you naturally set a pretty table to welcome your guests, don't you?

Sorry, that picture above is several years old. The truth is we served ourselves right out of the pots, from the stove on everyday Fiesta plates.

And our salad for the meal? I triple washed a beautiful head of organic ruffly lettuce, spun it dry and then laid it all out on tea towels, washed a bell pepper, cucumbers, scallions and tomatoes and plopped them out of a towel too.

And our beautiful daughter-in-law had barely stepped out of the car before helping me assemble last-minute individual salads for everyone. Some French bread toasted in the oven and we were ready to sit down at my plain old everyday table and eat.

I didn't take a picture of my fabulous dessert--a recipe I think I saw last week on Facebook, or somewhere. A box of Angel Food cake mix and a 20 oz. can of crushed pineapple stirred into it in a bowl and let it froth, all the way to the top of the bowl. Pour in a greased 9 x 13 pan and bake for 30 minutes. 2 ingredients. Now that's easy and you know what, that cake was not bad at all. If I ever make it again though I think I'll pour melted butter all over the top of it when it comes out of the oven. I mean...butter, right?

I have got to get my pretty table setting groove back though. What's the use of having all these pretty dishes if I don't use them? And I kind of feel like I'm letting the house morale down by not going to much trouble. 

I think about all the old movies where the British dressed for dinner even while on safari, whatever happened to that way of thinking? 

Do you find yourself making things easier and easier on yourself as time goes by? Or am I the only one?

At least I had a fork for everyone.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Tarragon and Other Herbs, and A Kitchen Essential

Tarragon is one of my favorite herbs. Even though I've never been able to find French Tarragon locally, the Mexican tarragon works fine for me and has the prettiest flowers and comes back every spring. 

Beside it in the pictures is a kitchen essential that no one could call pretty but I've treasured it for five decades. It's a wide-mouth funnel that I used every summer for canning.

I haven't done any canning in ages but I still use that old funnel to fill jars easily, like with the Ranch dressing I made in the picture above. And I save glass jars all the time now since we threw away all our plastic food storage containers.

All of those Tupperware parties I went to as a young married and didn't realize how bad it was to store food in them!

If you don't have one of these handy funnels, here's a link to a pretty one. I thought about buying one but it seemed like being unfaithful to my old friend. When I use it I remember all the jars of chili sauce I put up each August, and corn relish and pepper relish and pickled okra and every kind of jelly and jam imaginable. 

Do you still can and preserve garden goodies? I miss those days.  I wonder if RH would agree to give me a few days to put up chili sauce one more time?

 [Woman's Home Companion ad, July 1943]

Besides fresh tarragon, I use a lot of tarragon vinegar too. And my favorite brand is Sparrow Lane.

Their Tarragon Champagne Vinegar is amazing, as is their Pear and their Gravenstein Apple Cider and everything else they make. Here's a link to their vinegars!

I've been on a seafood and fish kick this summer and fresh tarragon and tarragon vinegar seems to go so well with it.

I've cooked rainbow trout anytime I could find fresh North Carolina ones at the store. Here's a pic of it with tarragon butter sauce...just google any recipe for the sauce, some of them call for shallots too but for delicate trout that would be overpowering.

With salmon I tend to use fresh dill...

Don't you just love that you never have to replant dill? Ours sprout up all over the garden each spring.

And of course, pasta shrimp dishes just seem to call for basil and parsley, don't they?

I do wish I could figure out one other kitchen essential. Why is it that some bloggers' kitchens look gorgeous even in the midst of cooking a big meal, with dirty pots and pans overflowing the sink and dirty bowls and dishes on the counters, while mine just looks a mess?

 But then if I had a gorgeous huge vintage copper sink, maybe I would post more pictures of dirty pots in mine too. And it wouldn't hurt a bit if I was as beautiful as she is while cooking. Please, please don't think I'm putting her down because she is my number one online inspiration and I adore her! I really must share her YouTube channel with you because...well, just because it's my favorite and we should always share our favorites, don't you think?

By the way, is there any more tedious task than peeling and deveining shrimp? These Gulf shrimp were worth it but I was so thankful I wasn't cooking for a crowd.

What is your most tedious cooking chore? Besides washing the pots and pans, that is? 

And what is your favorite herb? I have a dear friend who cannot abide cilantro, which amazed me until I read that many people have a gene that makes cilantro taste like soap to them. Okay now, am I gullible to believe that or is it just another urban legend? Anyone know?