29 April 2012

Fines Herbes

Fresh herbs are always appreciated at my house.

They fill up the kitchen windowsills and are often tucked into any crevice available in the fridge, tucked into tiny sleeping bags of damp paper towel and plastic baggies.  I have many of them planted amongst my perennials and shrubs as they lend a bit of delicacy to the plantings and I don't need to go far to harvest!

I always thought I'd have a kitchen garden someday....there is still plenty of time.

One of my favorite combinations of fresh herbs for cooking is called "Fines Herbes" in French and embodies the subtleties of  French cuisine.  A combination of Chervil, Chives, Tarragon, Parsley.  Equal parts or heavy on the flavors you enjoy most, Fines Herbes, makes many dishes sing with it's bright flavor.

If you choose the chervil and tarragon to be your main focus, you get an emphasis on anise notes, parsley is more fresh green and lemon flavors and chives give that grassy, onion, garlic punch.

I use Fines Herbes most on fish, chicken, potatoes and salads, usually in a light vinaigrette, homemade mayonnaise or simply sprinkled on top before serving.


Grows well in a shady location, with well drained soil.  Keep well clipped and avoid allowing to go to seed for all season enjoyment, or re-seed every 2 weeks or so.  Re-seeds itself well for years of enjoyment.  Ferny, delicate foliage about 10 inches maximum height, looks great in pots or amongst other flowers.  Can withstand a bit of frost, and grows best in cool weather.  Chervil does not like to be disturbed once growing, so it's best to sow seeds and not disturb it once started.

Tarragon is best purchased as a plant, as the seeds are difficult to germinate.  It likes morning sun and a bit of shade during the hottest parts of the day.  Tarragon grows on a shallow root system and reaches about 4 feet tall.  The French tarragon is a bit more flavorful and less invasive than the Russian Tarragon.

Parsley is an easy to grow herb that enjoys partial sun and moist well drained soil.  You can choose the flat leaf variety or curly leaf, the tastes are very similar.  Easy to start from seed or purchase plants.  I usually plant a few plants, as I use an abundance throughout the season.

Chives are a perennial and grow in a grass like clump about 18 inches tall.  Once established in a sunny, well drained soil, the plants thrive for years.  The purple blooms in late spring are also edible and lovely tossed into a salad. 


26 April 2012

Quiche today

This is the most perfect quiche recipe in my opinion.  Not too much stuff  (it's a great time to clean the fridge!), not too much time, but totally delicious.  It's one of the few recipes I can recite from memory.

I always use Pate Brisee versus a pie crust, but it's your call on that.

I like fun shaped tart pans, but it works just as well in any shallow pan about 8 inches in diameter.


1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
7 1/2 Tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
2 1/2 Tablespoons ice water

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl combine flour and salt, add butter and combine with a pastry blender until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Add ice water and using a fork, stir until dough just begins to come together. Do not over process...this leads to tough dough and applies to all pastry dough. Form dough into a ball and put in fridge for about 30 minutes.

On a floured surface roll out dough until about 2 inches larger than pan. Place dough in pan and press into bottom and edges. Cut excess dough from edge of pan and bake 10-12 minutes until golden brown.

REDUCE OVEN TO 350 DEGREES after baking shell!

2/3 cups whipping cream
3 eggs, beaten
1/4 pound Four Corners Creamery Fresh Chevre (Goat cheese)
1/4 pound Gorgonzola dolce
1/4 pound aged Cheddar or Gouda, grated or chopped
salt & pepper to taste
1/3 cup any sauteed vegetable that you like
2 Tablespoons fresh herbs, chopped
Mix all filling ingredients in a large bowl and pour into a baked pastry crust.  Garnish top with herbs and bake for 25-30 minutes until set in middle and golden brown.  Let cool about 10 minutes, slice and serve.

Raw milk prices astound me...

Just a little thought for the day.

(I'm not debating the raw milk legalities, this is just an observation.)

Currently in Michigan, raw milk (meaning unpasteurized, unlicensed, farm direct
milk) is topping out at around $8.50/gallon.  The customer also picks up the product and purchases a "cow share" which is essentially a fee for housing the cow and legal agreement that you won't sue the farmer if you/children get sick.

A milk producer selling his milk at commodity pricing (the only legal price he can get) sells his milk at about $1.50 a gallon, pays for being licensed, pays his farm cost for raising/housing animals and is held financially/legally responsible by everyone if his milk makes anyone sick or is tainted with antibiotics or growth hormones.

Why is it people are always willing to pay so much more for illegal goods?

We continually complain about pharmaceutical/large corporations/health institutions that are charging, what  many consider, unfair pricing.  We complain about cost of living for gas/electric, insurance etc. yet we are not complaining about the folks making money illegally with absolutely no responsibility if the outcome is negative?  Except drug dealers.  Is it because he's "the little guy" trying to make a buck?  What about the other "little guys" that follow the law?  (Our "little guys"  licensing is currently about $1000 a year.)

I'm all about changing laws when they don't work.  But becoming the catalyst for changing laws doesn't give anyone any right to partake in illegal activity or charge black market pricing.  I would always prefer to be the one that follows the rules and challenges them based on knowledge, experience and respect.  If I didn't, I think I would consider myself just a common criminal regardless of my justifications.


22 April 2012

Getting Inspired...

I stopped into a small Mediterranean Market last week.  (For those of you in the local area, it's on the corner of Ellsworth and Stone School in Ann Arbor)  I go there often for homemade pitas, hummus, spinach pies and more as it is all homemade in the shop.  I'm planning on making Shish Tawook sandwiches for tonight.  (Recipe will follow tomorrow) Of course while awaiting my goods to be packaged and weighed, I poke around the treasure trove of middle eastern goods.  I am always surprised and fascinated by something unexpected and unusual.  Here were my surprises for the week;

CHICKPEA FLOUR;  I'm going to make a pita recipe using the chickpea flour and deep fry them in a bit of canola oil.  We first tried this in southern Italy with sundried tomato pesto and olives as an appetizer!  The pitas are quite delicate and melt in your mouth!  Also great if you're needing a gluten free alternative.

ORANGE BLOSSOM WATER;  I've been keeping this stocked in my kitchen for baking and cocktails.

POMEGRANATE MOLASSES;  I have NO idea what I'm doing with this yet, but I just read a feature (I think Fine Cooking or Saveur) on it and thought $3.99 was worth the discovery.

WHOLE SLICED COCONUT;  What a weird bag of coconut slices containing the woody husk/shell too!  I'm not sure what I'll do yet with this either, but it's so beautiful, I could always toss some on a plate with a new coconut shortbread recipe I'm playing with!

GREEN ALMONDS;  Another memory of Italy and pulling green almonds off the tree in the afternoon.  Dipped into a tiny pot of finely ground sea salt, it's a refreshing snack or lovely palate cleanser!  I shared them with my cooking class and everyone was quite surprised at how tasty the almonds were!  Similar to a fresh bean. 


GUAVAS; Since these are still a LOT green, I'm letting them ripen in the fridge and am planning a guava curd for next week.  I've never worked with fresh guava before, so this should prove interesting.

GREEN APRICOTS;  Huhn.  They were there at $2.99.  Searching frantically for recipes and ideas.  So far, NADA.  Worst case, I thought I would pickle them like peaches in a really sweet syrup and see what happens!

CANNED IMMATURE BLACK WALNUTS IN SYRUP;  I originally tasted these from an Armenian preserving company and sold them at the Boulevard Market.  These are from Greece, so I'm hoping they will be as delicious.  I also have a walnut tree and am going to try my hand at making my own this year...I foresee black fingernails for all involved.  And possibly an ugly argument or two about all of the weird junk I have hanging around.

I had my eye on dried tiny golden plums and barberries, and I usually buy a good supply of pistachios as they stock every style and they are really fresh.  But I have to leave a little something for next time!  John reminded me I still have a bag of dried whole lemons from about 3 years ago, that I've never been able to find a recipe to use them with! 

Any ideas and suggestions for these items would be greatly appreciated!!  I'll share the results as soon as possible!

21 April 2012

Visiting Norfolk Virginia

John and I took a mini vacation to Norfolk VA a couple weeks ago to visit our daughter and do a bit of sightseeing.  This was the first time either of us had vacationed on a large, working river near the largest Navy base in the world.  It's the Elizabeth River and quite an active shipyard/working river. 

Our daughter, Gina, provided an in depth history of the area as she works for the Great Bridge Battlefield & Waterways project near Norfolk in Chesapeake and part of her job is to share history of the area.  More about the Great Bridge can be found here www.gbbattlefield.org/ .  I learned it was a pivotal moment  during the Revolutionary War and America's history.

We so enjoyed Norfolk's downtown area that offers tons of local art and some really great dining spots!  The river walk at Town Point Park was marvelous and southern hospitality was apparent!  (The Waterside Mariott had an amazing view and piano lounge that allowed for some relaxing and cocktails!)  It was sobering to seeing the original city limits of Norfolk and St Paul's church with a cannonball still lodged in the brick wall.  It brought us a better understanding of America's birth and a resolution to learn more!

Yes, I got the Waffle Chicken @ The Public House
"Pig Pickin" plate

We traveled the Hamptons Roads area of Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake and Portsmouth.  I fell in love with Wisteria (which has a hard time this far north) and fresh crabs, old brick homes with black doors and the entire city's public dog water dishes!!  (you'll find one available at The Market asap :))

We toured the USS Wisconsin and Nauticus Museum, which was an absolute treasure trove of maritime history!  German U Boats off America's coast in the 40's....brought a whole new recognition of "you sank my battleship"!!

USS Wisconsin

We mostly loved spending time with our daughter and experiencing the successful independent woman she has become and the life she is making in Virginia.  We've missed everything about her!  (except maybe sharing a bathroom)

Great Local Food & Wine @ Vintage Kitchen Norfolk VA

12 April 2012

Adventures in pasta making; I am not Italian...

Don't let the dark hair/eyes fool you...I am not Italian.  If I thought I could pass for Italian, the pasta making has stopped me short!

I have tried to make pasta once before, using a rolling pin.  Possible, but deadly on your upper body muscles.  Not to mention, you cannot believe how much pasta 2 cups of flour makes until you begin rolling it out!!  I even had an Italian chef once tell me "Just buy the rolling machine....".

Each year as my birthday rolls around, I make a list in my head of things I need to try/do.  It's kind of how some make New Year's resolutions, only I really feel it as the digits of my life clock roll ahead.  Pasta was on my list this year, along with growing watercress, learning to smoke cigars, setting up a lovely cocktail table in my living room complete with some unusual liquor bottles and crystal decanters (possible now that our youngest daughter is graduating from high school), reading the weekend edition of the WSJ every week and publishing a cookbook.

So, I bought the pasta rolling machine as a gift to myself!  Shiny red, rolls as smooth as silk with just a small twist of the handle!  I attached it to my cutting board (note to self; buy a piece of granite) and I was off rolling out tagliatelle made with eggs!  I set John to work creating a Bolognese sauce to simmer away for the remainder of the afternoon.  

I always get a kick out of Italian directions.  They are printed on fabulous quality paper (none of that white filmy booklet you get in most imported goods) in a small booklet, complete with drawings.  The instructions are totally complete on how to do everything, except actually putting it together/changing the dough sizes!!  With only one knob and 2 holes, John and I figured it out....

I went a bit overboard with the flour dusting!  Whew, still cleaning!  I hoping with a fair amount of practice, I can churn out some wonderful stuff!


I would LOVE any tips you might share for making pasta! 

11 April 2012

I see Macarons in my future...

On a recent  trip to Virginia, my daughter took me to her Ghent neighborhood shop, Le Marche.  A treasure trove of French/French inspired home goods, she understood the clear and present danger.

The only thing that slowed my shopping instinct was the size of my suitcase.  However, the merchant was quick to assure me that they would be "delighted" to ship any of their goods to Michigan!

I couldn't pass up the opportunity to purchase Laduree's new cookbook.  I first experienced their Macarons in Paris and have re-visited the memory frequently.  Laduree put the recipe in this cookbook and even made the cookbook look like their beautiful cookie boxes!  A fuzzy, gold embossed cover, gold leaf pages and purple tissue completed the package, so we are down to the baking itself now!

I will be making my macarons this week and posting as I go.  I would love any tips and techniques from you to make my endeavor more successful!  

05 April 2012

Homemade Frosty Paws Recipe

I was so excited last week to receive this recipe from Patti, a friend and fellow dog lover!

My sidekick, Pierre, loves the Frosty Paws treats from the freezer section of the grocery store.  However, at 11.9 pounds (12 #s would be overweight) I'm stuck splitting the cup in half or taking it away midway through the enjoyment...downright mean in everyone's opinion.

I purchased some small silicone baking cups at the local dollar store and they are perfect!  The baking cups are also non-stick, dishwasher safe and colorful!  I got 8 cups for $1. 

Knock off Frosty Paws; Peanut Butter Flavor
32 oz vanilla yogurt
1 large jar baby bananas or 1 ripe banana mashed
4 TBSP Peanut butter

I did a little whirl in the food processor with the banana and yogurt.

The original recipe called for honey, but since I used the vanilla yogurt, I omitted it.  The vanilla yogurt is a bit sweetened and tasted great.  I also didn't mix in the peanut butter entirely, but made a little swirl in the yogurt, kinda like people ice cream.

Here is my sidekick in action....

  Bring on the Spring and ice cream season, we're ready!