Sunday, May 24, 2009

Patio dinners

This is the first Spring we have actually had a patio large enough to accommodate dinner outdoors. Today was such a perfect day for dining 'al fresco' that we decided to keep supper simple - we grilled some chicken, burgers and dogs and served with various finger foods on the side: roasted asparagus, sweet potato fries and various fresh veggies. (With hummus, of course. My youngest son wouldn't dream of touching any crudite without slathering it in hummus first.)

I wish I could say I took the time to make the sweet potato fries but I cheated and used frozen. I spied McCain Sweet Potato fries when I was grocery shopping this morning and decided to try them out. They were actually quite good. Of course, I drenched them in malt vinegar and salt so that could have something to do with their popularity!

Given that most of our meal was thrown together last minute after a day filled with yard work the best I can do for a recipe this week is to share our dessert, which was actually also very simple. I combined some sliced banana with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and poured some homemade butterscotch sauce over top.

The butterscotch sauce is from The Joy of Cooking (page 1047) and reminded me a lot of the sauce I make at Christmas for Sticky Toffee Pudding. The sauce consists of butter, corn syrup and sugar with a splash of vanilla. It wasn't difficult to make although my final product did have lumps. No matter - I strained the works through a fine mesh sieve and it tasted great drizzled over the bananas and ice cream. Only one other taker. My husband doesn't like ice cream (I know - who doesn't like ice cream?) and my youngest son dismissed my sauce as soon as he heard it wasn't chocolate. I knew my older son would appreciate my efforts. He is a brown sugar fanatic so this totally satisfied his sweet tooth. And mine!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Sunday S'mores

We spent Mother's Day weekend up at the cottage. By the time we rolled home on Sunday dinner was a pretty random affair. So instead of talking about Sunday dinner this week I'm going to talk about a cottage classic, s'mores.

I'm a sucker for anything that combines chocolate, marshmallow and graham cracker. When my husband and I used to go camping s'mores were a given part of the experience (along with leaky tents, sore backs and unacceptable bathroom facilities, hence we now cottage instead of camp). Mother's Day weekend in our neck of the woods at the cottage was wet and rainy so authentic campfire s'mores were out of the question. So we got a fire going in the wood stove, grabbed our provisions and set to work on a reasonable indoor version of this classic.

To make really good s'mores you will need:

Jersey Milk chocolate bars (at least one, but who are we kidding - grab a few)
box of graham crackers
bag of marshmallows

Also required - a blazing fire, a marshmallow roasting stick, a pie iron and some tin foil.

Break off two pieces of Jersey Milk and set it on a graham cracker. Roast one marshmallow to your liking. Take a second graham cracker and, while laying the (now soft) marshmallow on top of the Jersey Milk/graham cracker, use the second graham cracker to squish the whole works together, pulling the marshmallow off the roasting stick. Now wrap up your s'more in foil and place it in the pie iron. Put the pie iron close to or in to the fire for about two minutes. Remove the pie iron, open it up and slide out your s'more. Careful unwrapping the foil 'cause it's gonna be hot. Let the s'more sit for a few seconds (again, it's hot) then pick it up and cram it into your mouth. Or take small, polite bites. Whichever.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

There's more than one way.... roast a chicken. Surely you didn't think cat was on the menu? Which reminds me of a funny story I read about buying fresh rabbit. A few months ago when we were in Target, I picked up a copy of The Sharper Your Knife The Less You Cry, a memoir about a woman who chucks it all to attend Cordon Bleu cooking school in France. In one memorable classroom lesson, she learns that it is always wise to buy fresh rabbit with the head attached because fresh skinned rabbit looks a lot like fresh skinned cat. Meow.

But I digress. I know that I did a roast chicken a few weeks back but roast chicken is just such an easy Sunday dinner and there are so many variations to roast chicken (not to mention my kids will eat it without making too much of a fuss) that I find myself falling back on this old standard quite a bit. This version is a simple combination of rosemary and tarragon (chopped fine) mixed with some unsalted butter (and dijon mustard) then rubbed all over the bird. It's called Bistro Roast Chicken and the recipe is available via Cooking Light. I served the chicken with roast fingerling potatoes and roasted asparagus. It was all very, very good.

Catching Up

I'm a few Sundays behind (3 to be exact) for which I have no great excuse. So let's just get to it.

Linguine with Chicken and Sun-Dried Tomatoes is a sentimental favourite that I can't help making every few months. This was the first recipe I tried from epicurious, a website that was recommended to me by a colleague at work when the Internet was still a fad. Yes, I'm that old.

I like this recipe because it brings together a number of ingredients that my husband would say he doesn't like, yet he mops his plate whenever I plunk this down in front of him. The sauce combines balsamic vinegar, sugar, sun-dried tomatoes and basil with a bit of chicken broth. Thus far I have always made two chicken breasts with enough of the sauce/dressing for four, and we still manage to devour every last bit. This dish is also impressive enough, and easy enough, to serve company which I have many times.

The flavours of this dish can be quite strong, so the boys received a serving of plain linguine with some chicken I had pan-fried but removed before the sauce step. I drizzled a bit of the sauce over each kid plate to give it some kick; I can't say they thanked me for it. My older son thinks all pasta should be consumed drowned in V-8 juice and my younger son doesn't much care for pasta at all. So not a raging success, but a blast from the past for my husband and I who savoured every mouthful.