24 April 2014

Red Celery Salad with Bacon, Apples and Cranberries

Red celery salad with bacon, apples, cranberries.

From 2012: New produces comes slowly to the Northern Hinterlands. It was only six years ago that I bought golden beets for the first time. Red celery, which made a splash in 2010, is now available locally. 

Red celery is crunchier and more flavorful than its common green counterpart, at least to my taste buds. I immediately began thinking of crunchy pairings: A tart apple, some roasted pecans. Next came contrast - chewiness - in the form of dried cranberries (although cherries would work just as well).

Something was still missing: Some additional chewy ingredient that would add salt and sweet. I think I found it in bacon. Try it, and tell me what you think.

Red Celery Salad
  • 1 bunch red celery, washed and chopped
  • 1 small tart or sweet apple, chopped (I used Jazz, but what about Granny Smith?)
  • 1/3 cup roasted pecans, sugared
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries or cherries
  • 1/5 cup bacon bits (best if fresh, but packaged will do)
  • Dash sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar

for the dressing:
  • One half cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 tablespoon orange juice concentrate
  • Dash cinnamon
Toss celery with apple, nuts, cranberries and bacon. Season with enough salt to provide contrast to the sweetness of the brown sugar.

I'd serve this with pork or turkey. It could easily become a Thanksgiving side dish.

Postscript: Today I'd probably serve this with the pomegranate balsamic vinegar that I love so much.

22 April 2014

Fire-King Tulip Pattern Oven Ware

The smallest mixing bowl from my four-bowl set.

When I was a toddler, our kitchen was small and sunny, located in a second-floor apartment in a late 19th century house near the harbor. It had only one west-facing window, but the walls were painted yellow and the room was radiant in late afternoon.

The spice drawer smelled of what I now recognize to be cinnamon and cardamon. The bread box was tin with a yellow top. My mother used Fire-King Tulip bowls to mix cake and cookie batter. The bowls, eventually replaced by Pyrex, survived many decades without nicks or chips.

When my sister and I cleaned out Mum's still-yellow kitchen cupboards - no longer in an apartment but in my father's family home - we found two sets. One belonged to my late Aunt Dorothy, her older sister and my godmother. My sister and I each took a set of four nesting bowls.

Fire-King oven ware, an Anchor Hocking line, originated in the 1940s. Much like Pyrex, it was ideal for everyday kitchen use. Housewives acquired it piece by piece in bags of flour, or as weekly promotional items at stores. It was also sold, much as Pyrex is today, at hardware and grocery stores.

You may be familiar with Fire-King's Jadeite line, which Martha Stewart collects. I'm sorry I never acquired any of this lovely light-green glassware; it it pretty pricey stuff these days.

In the 1940s, Fire-King oven ware was commonplace. The primary-colored tulip design was the prettiest pattern. Today, it's a collectors' item.  I've seen a four-bowl set like mine offered for $225. The asking price for individual bowls is $20-$50, depending on size.

Fire-King's tulip line included other items, like salt and pepper shakers, but mixing bowls are popular in online searches.

Online sales descriptions usually spotlight the bowls' excellent condition. The ivory-colored sets are also described as splash-proof, likely because they are deeper than most mixing bowls.

But beware before you buy a set. There are impostors, according to this blogger who loves and collects Fire-King.

I probably won't use mine. But I like looking at them inside my pie safe, along with cake pans and pie plates from various family kitchens. They add character and the patina of age to my favorite room in the house.

Chopped Ham Salad with Rosemary and Blue Cheese

Chopped Ham Salad with Rosemary and Blue Cheese
I never set out to write a recipe blog.

Because I don't really follow recipes much. I do have formulas, however, that guide me as I prepare spur-of-the-moment meals. Almost any recipe you see here can be adjusted to your individual tastes.

I've said before that I like my table to be simple, with maybe three foods on it. At one time, this would have meant a vegetable salad, a starch and a protein. Nowadays it's more likely to be a savory protein dish, a vegetable side and a zesty fruit or vegetable salad.

I use the same basic formula for making cold pasta dishes or salads: Pasta + Protein + Vegetable(s) + Accent Food + Herb = One Dish Meal.

More often than not, the one-dish meal is topped with nuts, seeds or dried fruit. That was not the case today, but it could have been.

Today's salad is for days when you need to use up leftovers.

Chopped Ham Salad with Rosemary and Blue Cheese (makes two small servings)

for the salad:
  • 1 cup uncooked pasta*
  • 3/4 cup ham, cubed or shredded
  • 1/2 cup fresh broccoli, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons minced onions
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/3 cup black olives, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon blue cheese, crumbled
  • salt and pepper to taste

for the dressing:

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon gray poupon mustard

Prepare the pasta according to package direction. While pasta is boiling, chop or cube ham and set aside. Wash and chop broccoli. Slice black olives, or use pre-sliced olives from a can. Crumbled blue cheese into very small bits. Set these aside until pasta is cooked and cooled.

Use a mortar and pestle to prepare rosemary.

Allow cooked pasta to cool. Toss all other ingredients together with rosemary and add to pasta once it had cooled. Add salt and pepper.

Prepare dressing by thoroughly blending all ingredients with a whip or fork in small bowl. Add to the salad.

As is the case with most cold pasta dishes, allowing the flavors to blend for an hour or so (in the refrigerator) is advised.

Measurements are not carved in stone. Feel free to add more of this or less of thar ingredient. Walnuts, or sunflower seeds are great toppings for this salad.

* I use Dreamfields lower-GI pasta as much as possible.

21 April 2014

Warm Asparagus Salad with Toasted Almonds, Feta and Black Olives

Warm Asparagus Salad with Toasted Almonds, Feta and Black Olives

My first experience with Greek dining took place on Halsted Street in Chicago's Greektown when I was barely out of my teens. My friends and I joined a line of eager diners waiting to be seated on a balmy September Saturday night.  The line stretched down the street, but waiters brought appetizers outside to tempt us. Inside, amidst cries of "Opa!" we were served flaming saganaki. I ordered moussaka, which I still love, and we ended the meal with a heavenly baklava while the owner danced for us.

Later I lived two doors from a Greek restaurant in downtown Madison, Wis.; it was a convenient place to meet friends for a late-night glass of retsina and not worry too much about teetering home at closing time. I learned to love gyros and filled my apartment with Greek vases from a specialty store on State Street.

Living back in the northern hinterlands of Wisconsin many years later, I no longer have easy access to Greek restaurants or food. My only option is to cobble something together myself. My husband makes a dish he calls Greek Chicken, but I have not yet attempted to make Pastitsio, Dolmades or even spinach pie.

For me, any non-holiday meal begins with a quick survey of the contents of my refrigerator. I like to use what's on hand, as you know, and save my money for travel.

But when you've got feta, olives and spinach on hand, it seems reasonable and prudent to make something with a touch of Greece, so...

Greek-Inspired Warm Asparagus Salad with Toasted Almonds, Feta and Black Olives (one serving)

For the garnish:

  • 1/2 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 cup fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1 small clove fresh garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup red onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup black olives, sliced
  • 1 hard boiled egg, chopped

For the asparagus:

  • 18 spears fresh asparagus, roasted
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons herbes de Provence
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • dash lemon pepper seasoning

Making the hard-boiled egg and chopping onion in advance, and using pre-sliced olives and almonds makes this a fairly speedy dish.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

While the oven is heating, prepare garnish, chopping onions and garlic.

Prepare asparagus and coat with olive oil in shallow baking ban. Sprinkle herbs, salt and lemon pepper seasoning, and roast in the oven for about 15-20 minutes, checking frequently. After about 10 minutes, shake the pan or use a heat-proof spatula to ensure even roasting. When the asparagus begins to brown, remove from oven.

While the asparagus is roasting, pour olive oil in medium-size skillet, adding onions and garlic. After about five minutes add spinach and almonds and drizzle with lemon juice.

Next, chop egg, prepare olives and measure feta cheese. When asparagus has finished roasting, arrange on plate with onions, garlic, almonds and spinach. Top with egg, olives and feta cheese.

I used a pomegranate balsamic vinegar as a dressing. I think the salad would taste great with mayo-based, honey-mustard dressing, too.

This would be excellent with roasted chicken or leftover lamb or ham from Easter.

Double or triple the ingredients to serve more people. My husband made himself a sandwich for lunch, so my warm asparagus salad was just for me.

An American Classic: Revere Ware Pots and Pans

When my husband and I were married 25 years ago, our newly merged kitchen overflowed with duplicates of everything from rolling pins to spice racks.

What we did not have was a decent set of matching pots and pans. So one Thursday night a year after the wedding we bought our first and only set of classic Revere Ware on sale at the old H.C. Prange Co. in downtown Green Bay.

It was just like the stuff my mother bought in the late 1950s and was still using in the 1990s. I've added to my supply over the years, and recently augmented it with vintage pieces from my late godmother and Aunt Dorothy's copper-bottom collection, but I have no intention of ever replacing it with a higher-price, higher-status product. It has served me well over the past 24 years.

Durability, Value and History

It's easy to clean; it heats and cooks quickly and evenly. It's fairly easy to store and you can hang it up.
Apparently I am not alone. For many vintage lovers, Revere Ware is a desirable find at yard sales and resale shops. Devotees say the newer products are not made as well as the vintage products - no surprise there.

For more information of the value of using Revere Ware, read this. Also, check out this Facebook page, devoted to Revere Ware.

Revere Ware is, like Paul Revere himself, an American original. Read more about its history here.

Caring for Vintage Revere Ware

But Revere Ware gets old and tarnished. Food gets stuck to the bottom. You might accidentally overheat it. Things happen that make it less useful or mar the exterior or the interior. Here's where you can get answers to your questions about Revere Ware.

As for keeping those copper bottoms shiny, my preference is baking soda and white vinegar. But there are several other methods, including lemon and salt.

Here's an interesting discussion on cleaning copper and the properties of popular kitchen abrasives.

The Revere Ware I bought in 1990 is in excellent shape. The black handles are intact. But handles on the older pots and pans often come apart - literally - at the seam. You can buy new handles and hardware here.

When we sold my mother-in-law's house, my husband found a set of three Revere Ware canisters. I use those, too. I like knowing my collection has been well used and well loved by my other mothers.

This is not a sponsored post. I have no affiliation with Revere Ware. I just like using it.

19 April 2014

Three-Cheese Chocolate Truffles

Three-Cheese Chocolate Truffles
Chocolate cheese has been available for many years in Wisconsin, but it's not something I consume more than once every five years. It's pricey, for one thing, and certainly not in league with spinach, tomatoes and blueberries as a desirable food for gorging.

But it's soooo delicious.

After making and enjoying these truffles last month, it seemed like a great idea to make more for Easter. But life intervened, as it always does, and the carton of Mascarpone has been sitting in my cheese drawer waiting to be opened and savored. Its time had come.

I also had goat cheese and a bit of Brie. Here's how it all worked out:

Easy Three-Cheese Chocolate Easter Truffles
  • 8 ounces coffee-flavored Mascarpone cheese, softened
  • 4 ounces unripened goat cheese, softened
  • 2 teaspoons Brie, softened
  • 1/4 cup cocoa, sifted
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1/8 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • finely-ground almonds
Allow the cheeses to soften to room temperature. Blend in mixing bowl, using a fork. Sift in sugars and cocoa and add extracts. Store covered in refrigerator until slightly chilled. Texture must be cool but rollable. Using hands, form mixture into balls about the size of a large marble.

Immediately coat the truffle with finely ground almonds, in a bowl or a low baking dish. It's best to place the truffle in a mini-cupcake baking cup. Chill covered. The truffles will remain fresh for up to three days but must be kept refrigerated.

I wish you all a joyous and peaceful Easter and Passover season.

18 April 2014

Carrot-Raisin Slaw with Cashews

Carrot Slaw with Dressing
Asparagus may be the vegetable we most associate with spring, but in popular culture, the carrot reigns supreme as an edible icon. I love carrots: their color, flavor, association with rabbits, nutrients and lore. Remember your mother telling you that eating carrots was good for your eyes?

A few years ago, multi colored carrots began appearing at area farm markets. I love them for the gentle variations in flavor and the way they look when prepared together.

Carrots pair well with lamb or ham, and look good when sharing table space with a green vegetable.

Although our plans are to dine out on Sunday, I couldn't let the weekend pass without making at least one carrot dish, one that complements a formal meal as well as a sandwich: Carrot-Raisin Slaw.

For the dressing:
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon fruity balsamic vinegar (I used pomegranate)
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • generous dash cinnamon
  • dash dried thyme leaves
  • dash sea salt
For the salad:
  • 2 cups grated or julienned carrots (about three large carrots)
  • 1/4 cup raisins 
  • 1/4 cup peanuts or cashews, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup sweet onion, minced (optional)

Make the dressing first, blending the ingredients well and setting aside so the flavors marry.

Grate or julienne the carrots; I used a julienne tool similar to this one. Add the raisins, onion and nuts. Chill. Add the dressing before serving as the color in the carrots will turn the dressing pink if the dressing is added too soon.

I used purple carrots, which are loaded with beta carotene.

This lovely little slaw would be elegant on the dinner table yet perfect with leftovers. It's a bit like wearing jeans with a dressy shirt and pearls.

Why not?