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Archive for June, 2009

With Ascot coming up, I came across this image and couldn’t resist sharing.  

Watercress and cream cheese sandwiches are one of my favourite tea time treats.

This hat, designed by London Milliner Sean Barrett, was worn at last year’s Ladies Day at Ascot.  

 

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sarnies

Isn’t it lovely?

Stay cool, 

Myrtle. 

 

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I found a new recipe in my inbox this morning.  It was for a Summer Squash Gratin from Heidi Swanson, on of my favourite food writers. Her blog, 101 Cookbooks is a fabulous source of down to earth, tasty, and exciting vegetarian dishes.  I love her ideas, although, I’ve yet to follow one to the letter. I tend to use her recipes as inspiration, then, adjust the recipe according to my family’s tastes and/ or according to what I have in the house. I highly recommend having a look at her website, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. I liked the look of this recipe as I love vegetable gratins, but don’t always want to eat the volume of dairy products that they normally call for. 

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As I had some yellow summer squash that I wanted to eat up, this recipe arrived on the right day. I used the squash and potatoes, as Heidi suggested, but I also included several stalks of de stringed, roughly chopped celery. I think that there are many vegetables that would work well with this method. I changed the sauce – I made it from two cups of basil with some dried marjoram, as I did not have the requisite fresh parsley and oregano in the house today (I’m cleaning out the fridge for the summer).  I also substituted a block of sheep’s feta for the gouda. It all worked very well.

It is important to slice the potatoes as thinly as possible, as they will take longer to cook than the squash. I used my trusty mandolin. 

The temperatures have been cooler this week in Arizona, so something hot, out of the oven, was a welcome change.

 

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Summer Gratin 

3 yellow summer squash, sliced about 1/6″ thick. 

6 small red potatoes, sliced as thinly as possible. I used my mandolin for the slicing today. 

4 stalks of celery, de stringed and roughly chopped. 

1 block of sheep feta cheese, about 7 ounces. 

2 cups of fresh basil.

2 cloves of garlic.

1 small salad onion (optional).

Zest from 1 small lemon.

A small pinch of dried marjoram (optional).

Red chilli pepper flakes (optional).

1 cup (or more if necessary) Extra virgin olive oil.

Panko breadcrumbs.

Salt and Pepper.

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  

Salt the sliced summer squash and put aside to drain, for about 10-15 minutes.  Slice potatoes, chop celery, and put into a large, mixing bowl. 

Make the sauce. Put the basil leaves, garlic, lemon zest, and small onion into a the bowl of a small hand mixer/blender.  Blend. Then add the olive oil, some chilli pepper flakes, and a pinch of salt.  Blend again until smooth.  Taste, and adjust the seasoning. 

Rinse the squash and dry with paper towels. 

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Break up and mix the feta cheese, and two thirds of the sauce (saving a bit for the topping), into the bowl with the potatoes and celery.  

Mix in the summer squash. Make sure everything is well coated. Taste for seasoning.  

Turn the mixture into a ovenproof dish.  Sprinkle on a few handfuls of panko breadcrumbs. I prefer to go lightly here, but, you can add as much as you like. Use the remaining sauce to moisten the breadcrumbs. 

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Bake until the potatoes are cooked and the topping has turned golden brown.
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I was very happy with the result, but, next time I would use more squash and make the slices thicker. Heidi suggests using a variety of squash, which I think would be very nice. Still, my supper delicious and really hit the spot. 

Thank you to Heidi Swanson for the inspiration.  Here is the link for the original, which looks fantastic, as well as lots of other, very good things. 

http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/summer-squash-gratin-recipe.html

Have a good weekend. 

Myrtle.

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School is out, the parties are over, the building work is done, packing for the holidays has started, but, it is time to encourage to learn to prepare things for themselves, especially First Born, who is now sixteen.  She is getting braver in the kitchen.  Last week’s contribution was a simple pasta bake, with Marinara sauce and Mozzarella cheese.  It was very good and none was wasted.  

It is often difficult for me to have the children around when I prepare meals.  Ideally, I like to make things first thing in the morning, when they are at school. I can do things very quickly and then have my afternoons free for activities. But, as our schedules vary from day to day at the moment, I find that our eating habits have changed.  Plus, the children want to learn some basics, and, of course, I want them to learn as well. 

But, a gentle reminder, food preparation, like any task, takes much longer with children hanging around.  

I have found that First Born tends to think that she cannot do things that I am certain she can do.  But, if I am in the room, she will look more at me than concentrating on her lemons and parsley.  So, I now leave her alone in the kitchen as much as possible, only coming in the room if necessary. I am pleased that she is able to see that she is able to do more than she realizes. 

Today’s task was Pasta Salad. 

After the initial panic, I explained the method, step by step. She was delighted that it is so easy, and I am happy to say  that she and Little One did a fabulous job.  It was very good. Very good indeed. 

The lovely thing about this salad is that you shop for specific things to make special, or it can simply be a reflection of what is in season, or even things that you want to use up from your fridge. It is easy, flexible, keeps well, and best of all, is very refreshing when it is hot outside. 

Once you decide on your pasta base, the rest can be different every time you make it.  The possibilities are only limited by your imagination. 

The children chose most of the ingredients for the salad tonight from our cupboard and refrigerator. They had wanted to add cucumber, but the last one had gone a bit mushy.  Never mind. 

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Pasta Salad for a Hot, Summer Evening

1 bag or box of relatively small pasta shapes, tonight we used Tubettinni.

Good quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil. 

Beans, 1 can. Tonight we used cannellini, but, any bean will do. Be sure to rinse them well. 

Sweet corn, 1 can.  I prefer unsalted, but even frozen will do. (Soak frozen sweet corn in boiling water for a minute or two, then rinse, before adding to the salad. 

Onion, tonight we used 3 small, purple salad onions,  and a couple of green onions, finely chopped. 

Bell pepper, tonight we used 1 yellow, but any colour will do. 

Celery, 4 stalks, de stringed with a vegetable peeler and finely chopped. Adds crunch.

Red Cabbage, a handful, coarsely chopped. Decorative.

Fresh flat leaf parsley, 1 bunch, washed, dried, and finely chopped. 

Fresh basil leaves, 1 bunch, washed, dried, and coarsely chopped. 

Cherry tomatoes, a handful, cut into halves. 

Several lemons, depending on juiciness.  Tonight, we used three lemons, but a mild vinegar could also be used. 

Salt, pepper, and chilli flakes. 

Cook the pasta according to the packet, not forgetting to salt the water well. It makes a big difference to the flavour of the pasta to add salt to the cooking water, rather than afterwards. Drain and rinse the pasta well, cooling it down enough to handle. Once drained of its rinsing water, put the pasta into a large, mixing bowl with a generous serving spoon of olive oil, to stop it from sticking. Add the juice of one lemon and some seasoning at this point as well. 

While the pasta is cooking, assemble, wash, and begin to prepare the remaining ingredients. Be sure to rinse any canned beans and sweet corn well. 

Once the pasta is cool, add and mix all the ingredients together, carefully. I like to use the biggest bowl I have, and a very large spoon.  

When all the ingredients have been well mixed, taste the salad.  The type of pasta you use, as well as how many vegetables you’ve added will determine how much more oil and lemon juice, salt, pepper, and chilli flakes you will need.  Don’t be afraid to taste, just a little, as you go.  

This salad is best served either slightly chilled, or at room temperature. Remember, olive oil thickens significantly when it gets cold. 

 

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I went a bit mad and sprinkled a few marigold petals on mine, although the salad was colourful enough without.  

I had mine with extra basil leaves as well.  

Well done children, it was a lovely supper. 

Thank you. x 

 

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Here is one I made earlier.  A few months earlier, in fact. It is made with a base of fusilli pasta. I took two, big bunches of basil and a bunch of fresh parsley, whizzed up with pine nuts and olive oil in the food processor as a dressing, then added frozen peas, salad onions, a few cherry tomatoes, lashings of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, but only a small amount of lemon. This salad had a very different nature and flavour. I sprinkled toasted pine nuts over it to serve, although it is also nice with a bit of flaked Parmesan Cheese or tiny balls of Mozzarella. As I mentioned earlier, variations are endless.

Pasta salad need never, ever be boring.

Dessert

Dessert

Mustn’t forget dessert. It is very difficult to eat too many raspberries.  

They are very good at the moment.  

Very good indeed. 

Happy Saturday, 

Myrtle.

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Our New Roof

In the short time that we have lived in our little house, our roof has leaked and leaked, despite numerous repairs.  Apparently, our roof was like a piece of toast, which has been toasted too long, curling up and the sides, getting very thin in the middle, thus letting the monsoons in. After the last deluge came through, and after a week of ringing many roofing companies, I made a decision.  The work started early Monday morning to keep the waters at bay. 

After all the excitement and parties at the end of school, we are slowing down. It is very hot already, and the children and I are planning for some summer trips. They will visit Disney World with family, and I will do other things.

The roof was finished today, thankfully. Having six men stomping around on one’s roof at 5:45 in the morning isn’t as much fun as it sounds. 

Clothes are being picked out and packed, and we are readying for our summer holiday. 

Sadly, not doing much cooking at the moment. 

As soon as I do, I will let you know. 

Keep cool and dry. 

Myrtle.

P.S. Tried one of the Dilly Beans today, very spicy and good.

The homemade bread and butters barely lasted two days.  Too good, in my opinion. 

M.

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