Monday, July 29, 2019

Changes and Eleven Cloves Chicken

In the thirty plus years we've lived here on Humminbird Hill, the road that runs by the farmhouse and down to the highway has never been re-paved. One time the county did a chip seal on it, but the rest of the time it was pot hole city. Some pot holes eventually were holding the other pot holes together.

Late last week county trucks showed up in the back of the parking lot of the fire station and that day they trimmed the weeds by the side of the road. What is funny about that is that the county had parked that same kind of trimming vehicle on the parking lot for at least four summers in a row...and never used it to mow anything. Change was coming!

The day after the trimming, different equipment showed up early in the morning and they began laying asphalt on the road. The next day they did the other lane. Temporary striping was added. It was an amazing is now almost pleasant to drive on the road. There are still other sections to pave, but it's great to have any smooth road. Of course we have to be careful now crossing the road...we used to be able to hear cars coming as they bumped along. Now the oncoming traffic is relatively quite...and they drive faster. Guess you get the good and the bad with change.

Other changes include drywall being installed on the area around the window in the farmhouse bedroom. Sweetie did the taping and mudding and I sanded it this morning. Still lots of work to do with more compound and sanding and new trim and paint, but it's looking good.

Very grateful for my wonderful neighbors. Various of us collaborated today on fruit and jam, picking out paint colors, and getting garbage cans to the road. Very lucky to live in this great neighborhood.

I bought a braid of fresh garlic at the farmstand we visit once a week, so yesterday I used a head of it to make chicken and garlic. The full recipe uses something like two pounds of chicken and 40 cloves of garlic but I only had three boneless, skinless chicken thighs, so I just used one head, which came to eleven cloves. With some shallots, thyme, pepper and chicken broth along with the chicken and garlic, it makes a delicious entree. We had peas and baguette with it. The bread is good because you can spread garlic on it and use it to mop up the delicious juices.

Eleven Cloves Chicken

3 -4 chicken thighs
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper
1 head garlic (about 11 cloves), cloves separated and peeled, skin discarded
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1 teaspoon freeze dried shallots (I use Penzey's), reconstituted in a little water
1 can (about 12 oz.) chicken broth

If they are wet or damp, dry chicken thighs with paper towel or tea towel. Heat olive oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Brown the chicken, turning at about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with the dried thyme, turning the chicken over to cook that side until golden. Remove the chicken to a bowl and set aside.

In the same skillet and oil, brown the whole garlic cloves, stirring often, for about 5 minutes. Add the fresh thyme and reconstituted shallots and cook, stirring for 30 seconds. Add the chicken broth and stir, scraping any browned bits from the skillet.

Return the chicken and any juices that collected in the bowl to the skillet. Cover and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Check to see that chicken is cooked...juices will run clear when center is pierced with a sharp knife. Serve a spoonful of juices, including cooked garlic cloves with each serving of chicken.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Shrimp and Stir Fry

Sweetie has an unusual way to do stir fry meals. He steams some of the veggies in the microwave to keep them from being overcooked (broccoli for instance) and then just stirs them in at the end.

Last night we took advantage of summer bounty by having a veggie stir fry, accompanied by some Trader Joe's shrimp that I had thawed and rinsed and then dredged in a melted margarine/roasted garlic mixture, then cooked briefly in the microwave. I often do fish fillets this way and it really allows you to cook the fish or shrimp just enough but not overcooked.

We served it over steamed rice and it was a delicious repast for a warm evening since the cooking was done on the stove top and in the microwave.

The garden is just so beautiful at this time of year. This year I planted a number of wild flower seed packets, so there are more flowers than usual. The green beans are producing like crazy right now and the yellow squash and zucchini are also quite productive. It will be a while before we have ripe tomatoes, but they are setting up nicely. Hope your garden, if you have one, is also giving you pleasure and bounty.

On the home front, we just had a great visit from K and her beau, Aaron. First time meeting him and we were sorry when he had to leave. Great guy! Had fun going to Iron Horse Winery, to Armstrong Redwoods, and to the Bale Grist Mill. Also discovered Les Claypool's (Primus) winery on Hwy 116. Fun!

Sweetie's Stir Fry

1 yellow onion, chopped
1 tablespoon vegetable oil (he uses olive oil)
1 clove garlic, minced (or more to taste)
6-7 cups assorted raw veggies, cut into pieces that are similar size - we used:
      1/2 red pepper, sliced in pencil thick slices, then cut crosswise
      1 small yellow squash, ends removed, cut into bite sized pieces
      1 small to medium zucchini squash, ends removed, cut into bite sized pieces
      1 cup snow peas, strings removed, but into bite sized pieces
      1/2 cup sliced carrots
      1 cup green beans, cut into bite sized pieces
      1 small to medium crown broccoli, but into florettes

1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons ground ginger, or 1-2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger (to taste)
1 teaspoon lemon zest (yellow part only)
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons teriyaki sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 cup water or chicken broth
Stir all ingredients for the sauce together until well combined. Set aside.

In a large wok, stir fry the onion in the vegetable oil until translucent. Add the garlic and stir fry for 30 seconds. Add veggies like the pepper, carrots and squashes and stir fry until almost tender. Add the veggies like the snow peas and beans and stir fry for about 30 seconds, or until tender. When you add the pepper and carrots, microwave the broccoli for 90 seconds, then drain and add to the stir fry.

With heat on medium, add the sauce and stir continuously until all the veggies are coated and sauce thickens. Serve at once.

Garlic Shrimp 

12 oz. raw shrimp, cleaned, tails left on, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1-2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
waxed paper and a microwave safe dish (I use a glass pie plate)

Dry the shrimp on paper towels. Set aside
Take the microwave safe dish and add the butter. Cover with the waxed paper (or parchment paper) and microwave on high until melted. Add the garlic, stir, cover with the waxed paper, and microwave on high for 30 seconds.
Take each shrimp by the tail and coat it lightly with the garlic butter, then lay on its side in the dish. Repeat until the dish is covered with shrimp, but keep it to one layer. If you have more shrimp, save them for a second round of microwaving. Cover the dish with waxed paper.
Microwave on high one minute, then uncover and move shrimp around in dish so that more cooked ones go to the middle and less cooked ones to the outside. Cover and microwave again for 30 seconds. Check. If needed, microwave another 30 seconds and repeat as needed until shrimp are cooked through and pink. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Rosemary For Remembrance - Again

Five years ago I baked a lovely rosemary bread, Panmarino, for the July Bread Baking Babes challenge and this month I made it again (photo above), but made only 1/4 of the recipe and shaped it as a baguette. Our challenge this month (with no Kitchen of the Month to choose something new) is to choose one of the July breads from years past and bake it. Since both Sweetie and I are eating less bread these days for our health, a fraction of the recipe seemed like a good idea. As is often the case, my timing was flawed, so we had our first bites at a little after 10 p.m. I decided that I like this bread best with a small amount of olive oil on top of the slice and a few grains of sea salt added.

July is always a month for remembrance for me and Sweetie, and rosemary is the traditional herb for least according to Shakespeare. Tomorrow is the 20th anniversary of our son's fatal accident. In 20 years we have learned how to live without him and how to live with each other and with what the days bring, but a day doesn't go by without our remembering him in some rosemary needed.

Still, with a huge rosemary shrub on the property, it's easy to enjoy recipes using fresh rosemary and this bread is a winner. I used some sourdough starter in addition to the pinch of yeast in the biga. I let it sit longer than the recipe called for (overnight and then some), so I used 40 grams of the flour and the water, mixed together, to add to the biga for an additional hour and then I followed the recipe to make the dough and then the bread. I think that the added time, plus the sourdough starter, gave the finished bread a wonderful depth of flavor.

Use good quality olive oil for the dough and be generous with the fresh rosemary. Your kitchen is going to smell wonderful while this bread bakes!

Be sure to visit the other Babes to see which July bread they've made. If you want to be a Buddy, I guess you send an email to the Babe whose bread you make. If it's mine, send me an email at elle dot lachman at gmail dot com and include a photo of your bread and a short description of your baking experience. You have until the 29th of July and I'll try and send you a Buddy Badge, if there is one.

We have quite a few Babes who are sitting out the bread baking right now, for various reasons. We do have a Kitchen of the Month for next month and I know that the Babes who are baking right now are enthusiastic about it, so join in if you like. You might discover a recipe that becomes a standard for you!

Panmarino (Note: I made 1/4 of this recipe for one loaf)
Makes: 4 Loaves  Original Panmarino created in Ferrara near Venice

Biga (which I made exactly as described):
Bread flour 143 grams/  5 ounces
Water 122 grams/  4 1/4 ounces
Pinch of instant yeast

Final Dough:
Bread flour 884 grams/  1 pound 15 ounces
Water 487 grams/  2 cups
Milk 2 ounces/ 1/4 cup
Biga 265 grams/  9 1/3 ounces
Salt 1/2 ounce/ 2 teaspoons
1 teaspoon instant yeast
Olive oil 88 grams/  3 ounces
Chopped fresh rosemary 9 grams/  1/3 ounce

Preparing the Biga:
Combine the bread flour, water and yeast in a large mixing bowl. Stir with a wooden spoon until well blended.  Scrape down the edge of the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let it rest at 75 degrees F. for 14 to 16 hours.

Making the Final Dough:
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the water, milk, and biga. Using the dough hook, mix on low speed until blended.

Add the salt and yeast to the bread flour in a bowl and whisk to combine. Add bread flour mixture a cup at a time and mix on low speed until incorporated, then add more. When about half the flour is added, add the olive oil, mix with the dough hook to combine, then continue to add the flour mixture. You may need to add by tablespoonfuls at the end. Mix with dough hook on low for 5 minutes.  Increase the speed to medium and mix for about 7 more minutes, or until the dough is smooth.

Lightly oil a large bowl. Scrape the dough into the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough ferment for 45 minutes.

Remove the dough to a lightly-floured work surface and knead in the fresh rosemary. Divide the dough into four 450-gram /16-ounce pieces (or divide into three pieces to shape as desired, as I did). Shape the dough pieces into rounds. Cover with plastic wrap and let them bench rest for 15 minutes.

Place two couches on a separate work surface or bread board and dust them with flour.

Uncover the dough and, if necessary, lightly flour the work surface. Gently press on the dough to degas and carefully shape each piece into a tight and neat rounds (or into rolls or loaves, as I did. I also shaped my round loaf in a heavily floured brotform).  Place one loaf on one side of the couche, fold the couche up to make a double layer of cloth to serve as a divider between the loaves, and place a second loaf next to the fold.  Repeat the process with the remaining two loaves and the second couche.  Cover with plastic wrap and proof for 1 hour.

About an hour before you plan to bake the loaves, place a baking stone (or tiles) into the oven along with a steam pan (underneath) or iron skillet (on the top rack) and preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Uncover the dough and score the top of each loaf in a star pattern using a lame or sharp knife. This particular formula doesn't say to do this, but you can sprinkle sea salt into the crevices as the original baker did to make it "sparkle with diamonds."

Carefully transfer the loaves to the preheated baking stone using a peel or the back of a baking sheet. To make the steam, add 1 cup of ice to the iron skillet or steam pan.

Bake for 40 minutes, or until the crust is light brown and crisp and the loaves make a hollow sound when tapped on the bottom.

Remove the loaves from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

July Doings

A wise and wonderful friend told me a few days ago that she keeps up with what I'm up to through this blog. I know that Sweetie's sister does the same and worries when no posts go up for a while. I always think of this as a food blog, but I guess it's also a log of current happenings in my life, so today I'll do some updating. Sorry that it's been over a week.

The garden gladdens my heart, which is important because July is probably my least favorite month of the whole year. The zucchini and yellow squash are finally producing. We had yellow squash cooked in a cast iron skillet with caramelized onions a few nights ago with our dinner. Delicious! No photo because Sweetie finished them off before I could take a photo. I had the first green bean this morning, right off the vine. More are coming. The first tomato has set up, but it will be late August before we eat any of the tomatoes.

The flowers are amazing...I have lilies and roses and similar long term flowers, but also wildflowers and morning glories and nasturtiums that will be gone come winter. The mix of colors is wild and wonderful. Deadheading every morning is a goal that sometimes is met, but not always. Watering happens each morning and I get in some weeding when I can.

I have been painting. I finished a painting of a bird of paradise flower, with an interesting composition of leaves behind it and I'm working on another painting with flowers now.

The downstairs bathroom in our home was updated in the spring with new wall and trim paint, but I never painted the trim around the door. Now that Sweetie is working at the farmhouse I've been able to remove the door and paint that trim so now it all is an intense deep turquoise with sandy colored walls. Soon there will be trim and walls to paint in the farmhouse, too. The sitting area also has a turquoise theme...guess I like that color.

We installed new blinds on two of the windows in the farmhouse the other day. The seating area has a sort of tropical vibe and the tatami mat style blinds tie right into that, while providing a bit of room darkening and privacy. Mostly I leave them up so that we can enjoy the sunshine and the fuchsia blooming right outside.

Sweetie continues to amaze with his Tetris skills as he repairs a window wall without removing the window. He is also very involved with a parcel tax measure that will be coming up for a vote in November.

We took a ride on the SMART train from Cotati to San Rafael, had lunch and a look around, then took the train back. It's a great ride and as seniors our fare is very reasonable. In San Rafael we found the most interesting Electronics store and a great bookstore which is about ten or so blocks from the train station. Had some great Thai food for lunch and bought crusty sourdough rolls from a bakery that has been baking for over 100 years in San Rafael. The photo is of the wetlands that the train passes after it leaves Petaluma, heading south.

My older brother is between trials and doing pretty well, but not as well as he hoped. I'll be visiting him and the family late this month for some fun times! My own surgery for gall bladder removal will be late August. The gall bladder is mostly non-functioning and I might even have more energy once it's gone.

Our darling daughter is doing well both with her career and with a kind man in her life. We hope to meet him soon.

Pi is as sweet and wonderful as ever and really appreciates his walks at the Laguna de Santa Rosa.

That's probably all the news for now. Sounding too much like a Christmas letter! Hope y'all had a great 4th of July!

XO, Elle