Spring Beach

 

Fickle Spring is a tease.
One sweet day followed
by wind swept chill.
But palpable quickening is evident.
Sunbeams dance as waves tease the shore.
The occasional beach stroller,
newly sans hat and gloves,
will notice a softness to the breeze
that tantalizes with remembered delights
of toes in the sand days and balmy nights. 

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Hopeful Signs

 

tentative and shy
peeking from sunny corners
hopeful signs of spring

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Memory Jog

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Interesting how one thought leads to another. How one experience brings a memory into clear focus. A recent cooking class that included couscous was a reminder of a delightful dish from the Jerusalem cookbook. I hadn’t made it for about four years, but that memory jog put it on the menu for tonight.

Ingredients: (adapted from the original recipe, “Couscous with Tomato and Onion”)

3 TBS olive oil
1 C onions (finely chopped)
1 TBS tomato paste
1/2 tsp sugar
28 oz. can of whole tomatoes, drained and chopped
1 C regular couscous (not Israeli or pearl couscous)
1 C chicken stock (boiling hot)
2 TBS butter
salt and freshly ground pepper

Method:

1. Boil a cup of stock in the microwave and pour it over a cup of couscous in a heat proof bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let steam for 10 minutes. At that point, fluff it with a fork and set it aside.
2. Using a non-stick pan, sauté the onion in 2 TBS of olive oil until soft. Add the tomato paste and sugar. Cook for about a minute. Add the chopped tomatoes. Season with some salt and freshly ground pepper. Cook until the flavors meld. About 3 minutes.
3. Pour the tomato mixture over the couscous and mix well.
4. Wipe out the pan. Melt the butter in the remaining tablespoon of oil. Put the couscous mixture into the pan. Pat it down with the back of a spoon to make a flat pancake that fills the sauté pan.
5. Cover and let cook over very low heat for about 12 minutes or until the edges are light brown and crispy.
6. Loosen the sides with a spatula. Put a plate over the top of the pan and invert it, so the crispy bottom ends up on top.
7. This can be served warm or at room temperature, making it an excellent dish for a buffet.

The original recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s Jerusalem is available online. The book has many wonderful recipes and is worth owning.

 

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April Snow

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April snow
seems wrong somehow.
Sheer affront to
newly surfaced crocuses.
Enticed by the promise
of a warm sun,
tender buds rose in answer.
Their greeting dashed
by snow’s chilly response.
Like sturdy New Englanders,
they will accept the moisture
and ignore the cold. 
Shake off the snow,
and not only rise,
but flourish.

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Daffodils

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a splash of sunshine
gold petals gently yawning
harbingers of spring

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Revisiting Spiralized Zucchini

There’s an ebb and flow to many aspects of life. At one point, my Spiralizer had a place on the counter. Now, rarely used, it remains tucked on a shelf in a utility closet.

My days of creative spiralizing are over, but for one thing. Combining the strands of a spiralized zucchini with pasta cuts the carbs in half and adds a satisfying crunch. It’s worth taking the Spiralizer out of hiding for this one dish alone.

Method: (for 2)

1. Spiralize a medium zucchini using the “spaghetti” blade. ( or buy a package of spiralized zucchini in the grocery store!)
2. Place in a colander in the sink.
3. Boil 1/4 pound of pasta in salted water according to package directions. Pour the cooked pasta, water and all, over the zucchini strands. The boiling water and hot pasta will partially cook the zucchini.
4. Return to the pot. Toss with fresh basil or a little pesto if you like.
5. The pasta/zucchini combo is now ready to be sauced.

Note: Pictured is actually a combination of leftovers. I had a couple of chicken cutlets left over from the previous night’s dinner of cutlets topped with salad, and a container of *artichoke sauce in the freezer.

Artichoke sauce: Saute an onion and some garlic. Add a can of artichokes (drained and rinsed) and a can of chopped tomatoes. Salt, pepper, red pepper flakes. Simple and good.

 

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Chicken, Beans, and Tomatoes

I reached for my Recipes from Home cookbook (2001) with a particular goal in mind. The four boneless chicken thighs that I had defrosted needed to be part of the dinner plan.

The recipe “Chicken, Tomato, and Butter Bean Stew” had a lot of appeal, but it also had a few problems. It called for a whole chicken cut into eight pieces, seeded and chopped fresh tomatoes, and butter beans. Never one to be dissuaded by details, I decided to forge ahead, and simply be inspired by the combination of flavors.

I knew that I could substitute cannellini beans for the butter beans, and a can of chopped tomatoes would substitute for fresh. Cutting each chicken thigh into four pieces formed the basis of a stew.

This adaptation turned into a happy accident. It was an easy, one-pot meal that we both really liked. One that I will definitely repeat.

Ingredients:

4 boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized chunks
2 medium to large onions, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 can chopped tomatoes (14 1/2 oz.) including juice
1 can cannellini beans (14 1/2 oz. Goya), rinsed and drained
chicken broth (enough to almost cover chicken)
olive oil, Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper, dry thyme leaves

Method:

1. Film a Dutch oven with olive oil. Dredge the chicken pieces with a little flour. Season with salt and pepper. Heat the oil and brown the chicken lightly on all sides. Remove to a plate and set aside.
2. Add a bit more oil to the pan. Saute the onion until it starts to soften. Add the garlic, and cook until fragrant. Add a little chicken broth to scrape up the bits from the bottom of the pan. Season with a little more salt and pepper. Add a few pinches or shakes of dry thyme.
3. Return the chicken to the pan and add the can of tomatoes. Stir to combine. Add enough chicken broth to provide enough liquid to almost cover the chicken. Bring to a boil. Cover the pan and place in a pre-heated 325 oven for 45 minutes.
4. Remove the pan from the oven. Be careful. It’s hot! Add the beans. Stir to combine. Cover and return to the oven for another 15 minutes.
5. If you end up with lots of liquid, you might want to remove the chicken mixture and boil the liquid until it reduces down. Then return the chicken mixture and re-heat. Check for seasoning. You might need more salt.
6. Sprinkle with fresh basil, if you have it. I didn’t, so I added a little pesto.
7. Really good served over rice.

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