Photo Friday: Interiors

I traveled to Turkey with my mom, aunt, uncle and a couple of their friends in May 2001 for a tour/sailboat trip. It’s one of my favorite places to visit.

While in Istanbul, we had a guided tour of the city and one of the places we saw was the gorgeous mosque, Hagia Sophia. I took this photo through the doorway to a small library off the main space. The Byzantine mosaics and woodwork in Turkey are amazingly beautiful. I brought home a few ceramic pieces I bought in town as a reminder.

Photo Friday: Interiors

This is my entry in this week’s Photo Friday challenge. The topic is Interiors.

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Grilled Steak with Chimichurri Sauce

I am a vinegar fiend. I just checked my cupboard and I have 11 different kinds of vinegar. So when I came across this recipe for chimichurri sauce in Cooks’ Illustrated magazine a few years ago, I really wanted to try it. It’s kind of like a kicked-up version of Italian dressing with a larger proportion of vinegar and uses red-wine vinegar – my favorite.

Chimichurri sauce is a condiment from Argentina generally used as a steak sauce, but it can be used on all kinds of grilled meats. There are variations that include cilantro or oregano, but I found I didn’t like those flavors as well, so I just use parsley. I also am not fond of the bite of fresh onion and garlic, so I reduced the amount of garlic and soaked it and the onion in the vinegar to remove some of their pungency.

Even though summer is unofficially over, there are lots of good grilling days ahead, so try this with your next cookout.

Chimichurri Sauce for Grilled Steak
Adapted from Cooks Illustrated

1 cup parsley leaves (reserve stems for another use)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup finely minced red onion
1/4 cup red-wine vinegar
3 medium cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
2 tbsp. water
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

Add red onion and garlic to red-wine vinegar and let sit for 10 minutes. Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until fairly smooth. Taste and add salt, if needed. Will keep refrigerated for one week.

Steak with chimichurri sauce

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Photo Friday: Luminous

In 2001, I went to a conference in San Francisco; this was the view from my hotel room. San Francisco is one of the most beautiful cities in the world in my opinion. The last time I was there was for my sister Andrea’s wedding to Forrest two years ago. Dan and I had a great time exploring Chinatown the day before the wedding. So much fun.

San Francisco

This is my entry in the weekly Photo Friday challenge. This week’s challenge topic is Luminous.

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Daring Bakers’ Challenge: Homemade Crackers

Daring Kitchen logoDan gave me a KitchenAid mixer for Christmas, so I could expand my cooking in a new direction. But since I’ve never baked much, I have a hard time thinking of things to do with it! So I decided to challenge myself and try new techniques by joining the Daring Bakers, an online group that comes up with a baking challenge each month. All members bake the same item and publish a blog post about it on the same day each month. The item is known only to the members until the publication day. Which was yesterday. Yes, I’m late on my first challenge, but it turned out well!

Our July 2012 Daring Bakers’ Host was Dana McFarland and she challenged us to make homemade crackers! Dana showed us some techniques for making crackers and encouraged to use our creativity to make each cracker our own by using ingredients we love.

The only requirement was to use two different methods to make two types of crackers:

  • icebox crackers, where you mix ingredients, shape them into a log, refrigerate to firm up, then slice and bake; or
  • rolled crackers, where you combine ingredients in a mixer, then roll out by hand or with pasta rollers. From here, you can cut out shapes with a cookie/biscuit cutter or cut the sheets into cracker shapes after baking.

Dan and I were out of town the first two weeks of July, so I had limited time to get this done. Last week, I tried a cracker recipe I had printed out years ago – Ina Garten’s Parmesan and Thyme Crackers. But I measured the flour wrong and they crumbled. Lesson learned.

Next I decided to try the Seedy Crisps, an Alton Brown recipe. These are so good! Thin and crisp, filled with poppy and sesame seeds, these crunchy little bites go great with cheese. They rolled out very easily and didn’t stick to my granite countertop, which I love. It’s important to cut them while they’re still warm; otherwise, they just break apart.

Seedy Crisps
Seedy Crisps. Recipe by Alton Brown.

The third recipe I made was really easy, too. I just need to remember to take the butter out to soften! Since I don’t bake much, I’m always forgetting about that part. Anyway, these were Rosemary, Cheddar and Walnut Icebox Crackers from “Garde Manger, The Art and Craft of the Cold Kitchen” by the Culinary Institute of America. I used pine nuts nuts instead of walnuts since we like those better.

These are like a cheesy, herby little shortbread. These are one of the icebox types; I still have another log in the fridge to bake off later. Because of the high fat content from the cheese and nuts, these will not last as long as the crisps, but the dough will keep in the fridge for days. Now, it just needs to be sliced and baked so we can enjoy it again.

Rosemary, Cheddar and Pine Nut Crackers
Rosemary, Cheddar and Pine Nut Crackers

The recipes and tips are all available on the Daring Kitchen website.

This was a really fun challenge, and I look forward to participating in many more!

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Urban Farming: Baby squash, tomatillos and melon

We came back from vacation to find the garden thriving, for the most part. The only plants we lost were the pickling cucumbers – but we still have full-size cucumbers. I plan to pickle some of those; I’ll just cut them into halves and then slices.

But everything else is doing well, particularly the Roma tomatoes and jalapeno and pepperoncini peppers. But we have some new babies out there that I’m really excited about. I thought they had died while we were on vacation, but the summer squash are flowering again, and there are a few babies, so soon we will have more of those.

Baby summer squash
Baby summer squash

We also have three tomatillo plants. We really love these. Tomatillos look like small green tomatoes, hence the name, but they’re actually a relative of the gooseberry plant. They have a mildly tart flavor similar to a less pungent mix of lemon and lime. I have several recipes in mind for these:

Baby tomatillos
Baby tomatillos

And we have canteloupe again! Last year, we only got two or three fruits out of the vine, but they were juicy and sweet. I can only find one baby right now, but there are a lot of flowers.

Baby canteloupe
Baby canteloupe

I made a really delicious fruity salad with mint and vanilla-fig balsamic vinegar a few years ago, so that may be on the menu.

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Summer Thirst Quencher: Sangria

New excuse for not blogging recently: We spent the past two weeks visiting family in Michigan and touring up the west coast of the state in a rented RV. We had such a wonderful time playing with the kids, cooking up some great food, and enjoying fresh Michigan corn, cherries and blueberries, we hardly noticed the unusual heat (not). It was a fun trip.

One evening, my sister Andrea and her husband Forrest made fish tacos with fresh pico de gallo for dinner. I thought a nice fruity sangria would go well with the zesty, spicy flavors of the main dish, so I made that.

Sangria is one of those recipes that can handle endless tweaking. I usually make it with pink (rose) wine, because that’s what I usually drink. For this dinner, I made two types – one with Pinot Grigio and another with a fruity red wine. Choose any fruity wine you like and add other fruits for a more complex flavor.

Sangria
This photo is from a few years ago. Makes me want to get to slicing some citrus!

Sangria

1 lemon
1 lime
1 orange
1 bottle fruity red or white wine
3 tbsp. brandy or Grand Marnier
2 tbsp. sugar and 2 tbsp. water, or 2 tbsp. honey, or 2 tbsp. agave nectar
1 cup other fruits (optional) such as white grapes or diced peaches for white or rose wine, and cherries, blueberries or red grapes for red wine
6 oz. soda water

Wash, dry and thinly slice the lemon, lime, and orange. Place in a large pitcher and top with optional fruits if desired. Pour in the wine and brandy or Grand Marnier and stir to combine.

Make simple syrup by placing sugar and water in a small microwaveable bowl and heat on high for 30 seconds. Stir till sugar is dissolved and then stir the simple syrup into the mixture in the pitcher. Using simple syrup will ensure that all the sugar is dissolved so you won’t have grainy sangria. Alternatively, you can use 2 tbsp. honey or agave nectar, which dissolve in liquid more easily.

Cover the pitcher and refrigerate overnight. To serve, stir in 6 oz. of soda water (optional). I don’t usually do this, but some people like fizzy drinks 🙂

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