Saturday, November 17, 2018

Traditions and Revisions (re: THANKSGIVING)

Seems like it was just summer.....Fall was certainly fleeting......and now we have the first of the
Holidays.....Thanksgiving!

As with many families, we have certain traditions. 

It was a long time for my Mother to "relinquish" the holiday dinner duties to me so I have really
only been doing the dinner for a few years.

I personally do not eat stuffing.  That said, I realize how most people enjoy it very much.

My Mother always made one traditional stuffing.....celery, onions, chicken stock, salt and pepper,
toasted breadcrumbs and INTO the bird!

There was never an egg involved in the recipe.  I see now, through my research, that most recipes
do indeed involve egg.

While trying to replicate my Mother's Thanksgiving meal, it became apparent that not all members
of our family liked the stuffing IN the bird.  So, I made a batch for IN the bird and also, for OUT of
the bird.

While reading wonderful recipes for Thanksgiving I decided to try an additional stuffing:
Corn bread, Sausage and Sage Stuffing.  I would make my cornbread in a cast iron skillet and
proceed with a Williams Sonoma recipe......this was such a hit with my family!!!  They absolutely
LOVED it.....it is a keeper, a must for each year!

I also decided that, each year, I would try another stuffing recipe......last year I made a Leeks
Bread Pudding (basically a stuffing) and, I must tell you....it was not all that great and I would not
make it again.

This year I am on the hunt for ANOTHER stuffing to introduce to my clan!  But I must be very
select as most will not appreciate an oyster stuffing .....I am slightly entertaining the thought of
an Herbed Wild Rice and Quinoa Stuffing with apples, cranberries and pecans but I can just see
the eyes glaze over at the mention of Quinoa.......but this sounds really good to me!

My husband (the BOB) was talking to a childhood friend the other day and was informed that
the friend's family was disconnecting with tradition and having stuffed shells for the Thanksgiving
meal, which is really understandable given that they are of Italian heritage.    My husband said to me, "why don't we do that instead of going through all of this?"

I looked at him, in amazement, and said, "Well, the turkey is already ordered for THIS year so
we are having the traditional dinner.....we can approach the subject at the Thanksgiving table and see what the family thinks". 

(Truth be told, I don't give a fig what we have for dinner - I just cherish my family all together!!!)

The next day my youngest daughter telephoned me and in our discussion, I shared the conversation
I had with her Father.  She, excitedly exclaimed, "Oh no!  We MUST have the traditional dinner!
We look forward to it all year!"   (Well, didn't that just warm my heart!)

So, for this year, at least, we ARE having the traditional Thanksgiving meal.

However, I must confess......we are among the, apparently very few, who do not anticipate and
enjoy the 'Green Bean Cassarole' each and every Thanksgiving!!!

What can I tell you?  My Mother never made it!!!

We always had Brussel Sprouts!!!  I have since discovered a Williams Sonoma Brussel Sprouts
recipe that is braised with bacon, chicken stock and is to DIE FOR!  (Each year I get new
Brussel Sprouts "converts"!!)

One of the "traditions" that I introduced was making 'place card' turkey cookies!

I would roll out and bake turkey cookies, decorated with sanding sugar and then I would write
on each cookie with icing the name of each family member.  I would then seal each cookie in
a bag and that would become the "place card" at the table.

This year I toyed with the idea of NOT making the cookies.

Nah!  Have to continue the traditions!  The cookie dough is in the fridge awaiting me!


Friday, November 16, 2018

Chicken Marsala

We recently did a dinner at our church and the entrée was Chicken Marsala.

This is a dish prepared with Marsala wine. 

And lots of mushrooms!  If you do not care for mushrooms, this is not the dish for you.

Most recipes will call for dry Marsala but a very few will call for sweet Marsala.

There is the slightest difference in taste between the two wines.   However, there is much more
sugar in the sweet and that can ultimately alter the dish.

CHICKEN MARSALA

6 chicken breasts, pounded to an even thickness, to cook evenly
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup all purpose flour OR 1/2 cup fine bread crumbs
 2 T. olive oil, or more as needed
1 knob butter, unsalted
10 oz. cremini mushrooms (or baby bellas)
1 knob butter, unsalted
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 cup Marsala wine (dry)
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/2 c. finely minced fresh parsley



The classic preparation is to pound the chicken breasts to an even  thickness and then salt and
pepper the breast.  The breasts are then lightly dredged in flour (or fine bread  crumbs)  and sautéed in a pan with olive oil and a knob of butter.  The breasts should be lightly browned, just a few minutes on each side - 4-5. 

Remove the breasts and set aside to keep lightly warmed.  To the pan, add the sliced mushrooms
and saute til nice and browned.  Add butter, if needed.  You don't want too much fat since you want
to really brown the mushrooms to bring out their earthiness.  Then add the shallots and garlic. Saute for just a minute or two.    Add the Marsala wine, scraping the pan of its fond and let it reduce by about half.  Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil.
Add a knob of butter to finish the sauce.  Add the chicken breasts and coat with the sauce.

Lemon is the unami for many foods.  After this dish is completed, a light sprinkle of fresh lemon
juice is just the right touch, to bring all the flavors to their complete perfection.

This is a lovely dish served with peppardalle or orzo.


Cauliflower Cakes

I was so sure I had already written about Cauliflower Cakes!  But after looking back through the
posts, it appears not.

I made them for a luncheon today and had posted photos last evening on Facebook and there was
quite a bit of interest in the recipe.

This is so unbelievably easy I am almost embarrassed! 

If you like cauliflower, you will love these!  And you can add whatever you like to them!





CAULIFLOWER CAKES RECIPE

1 head cauliflower
1 cup grated cheese (such as cheddar or  monterrey jack jalapeno)
1 egg
1/3- 1/2  cup bread crumbs
salt and pepper

1.  Steam head of cauliflower til fork tender.  Drain well. 
2.  In bowl, mash cauliflower.  Add 1 egg and incorporate.  Add cheese and bread crumbs,
     salt and pepper.                
3.  In saute pan, drizzle olive oil and melt 1 knob of butter on medium heat.
4.  Make cakes (patties) out of the cauliflower mixture and saute for 4-5 minutes.  Turn
    and saute additional 4-5 minutes.  Outside should be crispy and browned.

I have also added a small amount of finely diced red bell pepper, some grated carrot, even
some cooked quinoa!

Hope you enjoy!




Friday, November 9, 2018

Me and Martha

I am sure I have alluded to this before......Martha Stewart was my inspiration.

She has been admired, revered, admonished, beatified, deified, parodied, scorned, taunted, ......
but she is still here!

It was way back in 1982.....my Aunt Betty presented me with Martha Stewart's Entertaining book.
What a beautiful book it was!  Loaded with lovely photos.....how to's......oh, it was right up my
alley!  Everything I did was right there!....in her book!

But, truth be told.....the initial inspiration would have to be my Mother, Barbara.  She did not
fiddle with fancy hors d'oeuvres , nor did she struggle with complicated desserts.......she planned
and cooked lovely meals that tasted wonderful!  Every night we were served a salad that was
unique and interesting.  It might be a pear filled with cream cheese on a bit of lettuce.....or, one
of my favorites,  a vegetable- filled gelatin on a bed of greens.  Her meals were a cut above
the ordinary and always full of flavor.  Her desserts were simple.....grapefruit halves with a
cherry or a piece of homemade banana cream pie.

My Mother never asked me to help in the kitchen.  That was her personal domain......no one
was allowed!  Therefore, I was never privy to her  magic out of that kitchen.

But, back to Martha!  I had collected wonderful lace doilies and antique linens, silver knives from long-gone families of wealth, (complete with their initials), marvelous serving pieces.  Martha showed me how this all could be set forth to complete the most amazing table setting, buffet presentation, culinary offering. 

Therefore, armed with my Mother's downhome flavorful cooking and Martha's innovative style,
I was on my way with what would become Creative Catering by Trish Giordano!


The Passing of Time

It has been absolute ages since I have posted on this blog!

What have I been doing, you may ask?  Well, I have been going through (finally!) all the collected
recipes to see what I will keep and what I will discard for my future book.....

having lunch with various friends and acquaintances......

cooking for different church functions.......

I don't know.....the time is just flying by!

I thought, when I retired, that I would have so much time on my hands!

I thought I would exercise ,visit, experiment with new recipes, entertain family and friends, create the ultimate photo gallery in our second floor loft and hallway, perhaps get massages (never yet have had one!), perhaps take some cruises, perhaps travel within the United States..........well, my list is not getting crossed off but I am not just sitting still!!!!

Where does the time go?

I do find it harder to get up each morning.....the arthritis has not crippled me yet, but near so!
I need to have my banana half, warm drink (either lemon water or coffee), and perhaps a piece
of cheese and listen to the news, check out the Wall Street Journal and the weather and, finally,
get a nice hot shower ( which is so very soothing to the joints) before I am good to go for the day.

While I may have been awake since 5:00 a.m., I am not usually set for the day til 9:00 a.m. or so!!!!

Do you have trouble sleeping?  I can usually fall asleep all right but then I awake around 2:00 a.m.
and either doze and awake every hour thereafter or remain awake til said 5:00!!!!!  How very
annoying that can be!  (Thank goodness I don't have to be somewhere at 8:00 a.m. on a regular
basis!)

Have you been experiencing the "invisible" phase yet?  That is when everyone you encounter
at the stores, etc. looks right through you.  Of course, you have to be almost 70 for this to occur.
Most annoying.

I have begun to "play up" on this age thing.  When I encounter sales people, I act the "old lady",
personified!  I find they are more helpful, eager to give me the discounts ( you know, you must
ask for them, they will not be offered!) and I then walk away a happy customer - with a lower
priced item!  (There has to be some benefit to being "older"!)

Most folks my age are "purging"......all those old cards, photos, remembrances.  (My girls tell
me, "Mom, we are just going to throw all of this away!".)    I do start to do so......I have such good
intentions!  And, then, I look at a card or a photo or a drawing and I reminisce about that period
of time and, before I know it, the afternoon is over and I have a huge pile for "definitely keeping,
no matter what!" and 3 items I have put into the "discard" pile.

Clearly,  I am not capable of purging.

My one greatest joy, however, is watching and listening to my three  daughters.  All three are wonderful, intelligent, innovative, caring, funny women........not because of,  but despite me!.......they are truly the best!  They are passionate, compassionate, honest, sincere, dedicated.....oh, I could go on and on!  I admire each of them more than I can say.  They have handled whatever Life has thrown
their way admirably.  They are extremely loyal.  They are totally supportive of each other and that
warms my heart more than I can ever verbalize. 

The passing of time does have its perks......watching the next generation (and the generation after
that) hold on to our traditions, values and, yet, voicing and instilling their own beliefs and innovations
into their lifestyle and that of their children's.

It really is as it should be.








Monday, August 27, 2018

Roma Tomatoes

I recently went to the farmers market and ran into a school chum (and practically a life-long friend!)
and she told me she was going to purchase a bushel of Roma tomatoes and roast them in the oven for
soups, stews and sauces all winter long.

What a great idea!

The following market day, the one stand I patronize had a basket for $5.00.......25lbs!!!!

Once home, I cut the tomatoes and placed them cut side up on a baking sheet.  I sprinkled them with
kosher salt, freshly ground pepper, fresh thyme, drizzled olive oil over the tomatoes  and put them in a slow, low (300*) oven for 2 hours.






The kitchen smelled absolutely divine!

The tomatoes were a bit soft.  I bagged them and froze each bag flat......for the winter!!!



The next day, I finished off the tomatoes (the never ending bag of tomatoes!).  This time I placed
the cut side down on the baking sheet.  I sprinkled the kosher salt, freshly ground pepper, and fresh
basil, then drizzled liberally with olive oil.  I baked these tomatoes at 400* for one hour. 

I can't begin to tell you how wonderful that smell was!!!

Once cool, I processed the tomatoes, oil, basil, everything on the baking sheet.......and the result was
the very best, best ever, oh my! tomato sauce ever!!!!!!!

Unfortunately, the yield was only two (2) quarts!!!!!




Eggplant! Eggplant!! Eggplant!!!

As a young girl living in Manhattan, I had a friend from "da Bronx".  We would go to Tucci's (in the Bronx)  on Friday evenings after work.  It was there, for the first time, I had Eggplant Parmesan.

Now I had had fried eggplant at home in Pennsylvania  many, many times.  My Mother served it as a side vegetable dish.  I always, always loved eggplant.

It's funny.....it seems you either love it or hate it.

But Tucci's!  They did wonderful things with the eggplant and I was in heaven.

Fast forward many years and it is still one of my very favorite dishes.  Most of my pals enjoy it
as well.

I recently prepared an Eggplant Rollatini with no ricotta cheese.  Yep, no ricotta cheese.  That is
almost sacriligious, is it not?

I also did not fry the eggplant in oil.

Instead, I sliced the eggplant lengthwise and placed it on a parchment-lined baking sheet I had
sprayed with Pam.  Then I placed the eggplant slices on the baking sheet and sprayed each
slice with Pam.  I also sprinkled just a small bit of kosher salt on each slice.





The pan went into a 400* oven for about 20 minutes.  (some of the slices were a bit too thin and
were over-baked but most were just right).

After the slices cooled, I placed a beautiful, thin slice of prosciutto on top of each slice of eggplant.
Then I added a rolled-up slice of Fontina cheese and rolled up the eggplant slice.





This was placed on a bed of Roma Tomato Sauce (another blog posting), topped with freshly grated parmesan cheese, and baked for about 25 minutes. (Mozzarella cheese is another good option).









Heaven!!!!