My dinner peeps told me they’d like stuffed flounder for dinner. It’s a dish that seems very 1988 to me…heavy, very olden days upscale restaurant-y when done right, and extremely irritating when done wrong. I used to live very near the Chesapeake Bay, and then coastal New England – so I also have an aversion to inland seafood. I settle for frozen. We’re west of Raleigh, North Carolina, now and though our Asian market can be trusted for fresh fish (in fact it’s, still alive and in the tank…), I typically do not do seafood.
One time as I journeyed through Pennsylvania near the Mt. Joy area I stopped at the Amish Safood House. The paradox of the name didn’t dawn on me. I ordered the stuffed flounder and it – and everything else – was covered in “Imperial Sauce,” a reconstituted concoction that approximated Hollandaise in color, and a thick rug in texture and ability to hide multiple sins underneath (like their version of stuffed flounder…)
BUT my family jumped around and cried for stuffed flounder (and Working Girl and Forenza shaker knit sweaters), so I obliged.
I had shrimp on hand, and beer brats. So I made a sort of stock-less gumbo, took out the okra (my kids still won’t eat things with okra, unless it’s just the okra, right out of the garden) and added corn, because they love corn and earlier the little one cried because we weren’t having spaghetti and meatballs (which I never, ever cook because I hate the dish altogether). Corn just seemed like the natural solution to that. I pan roasted the corn for a few minutes in my grandmother’s cast iron, which I do just because it pleases me. I also poured a glass of wine at this point, even though it was only about 4 pm. In my defense it was Saturday.
I used kale as a side dish – it’s something I’ve learned to like, and I think I’m on my way to love. Cut into strips and sauteed with ample garlic and olive oil, then dressed with sea salt and good balsamic vinegar, it’s heaven.
The olive oil I use isn’t fancy, but I love it. It comes from California Olive Ranch, and has a Harvest Date right on the back. Olive oil sometimes sits around for months or YEARS in warehouses awaiting shipment overseas, which compromises the quality hugely. I love this stuff, and it’s always fresh. Also, if you catch the bottle out of the corner of your eye it looks like you have Jägermeister sitting on the counter.
Grits. Sigh. Can we make grits another post? I get hate mail at my dinner table over grits. And love letters. The kids like Gigi’s grits. My brother in law likes mine. Husband will eat mine, but he eats anything. The older kids hate them, but drowning them in hot sauce helps. So clearly I don’t have the answers here… Talk to Paula Deen, maybe, I imagine she sauces up some pretty good grits. For mine, I make them like the directions say, then add butter and cream. And cheese. Bacon if I have some (seems like too much, really, here…but go for it if you want.)
- 1 Onion, diced, including the top of you have it
- 3-4 garlic cloves
- 2 T olive oil
- About a pound of sausage, you choose
- 1 sleeve saltines, crushed
- 1 tsp thyme
- 1 T paprika
- 1 T parsley
- 1 pound shrimp (chop roughly if very large)
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- salt and pepper to taste – about 1/2 tsp of each
- 1tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 3 eggs
- 3 or 4 spoons of mayo
- 1/2 cup corn, pan roasted (or not)
- 1 glass of wine
- honey mustard sauce
The last three items are strictly for me to eat while I cook.
Brown the sausage (cook through) in the pan. Reserve fat in the pan. Remove sausage, cool, then chop roughly. Brown the onions and garlic in the same pan, same fat. For the last 2-3 minutes, add the shrimp and cook through until just firm.
After everything is cooled somewhat, mix with remaining ingredients in the same bowl. Cut a slice in the flounder and form the mix into an inside-the-fist sized ball, then place inside the flounder (as best you can. I found that I ended up placing the filling on the flounder and kind of covering it half-assed with the flap of fish I had cut on the top.
Cook covered in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes, then uncover and cook for an additional 10 minutes. I have a broiler that will go to a low broil temperature, and that’s what I used.
Jake’s Sour Patch Cheesecake. They’re inside!
We’re staring down the barrel at a whole lot of college book and tuition money if everyone who’s supposed to do what they’re supposed to do does it. And they will. And… Yay! And yikes, a little.
I had an idea the other week, and it’s been taking shape and things have been falling into place. Which is how I found myself at the grocery store in the candy aisle where I never go because I have small children, and if small children are with you in the store in the candy aisle things get very crazy very fast.
Today, though, I grabbed a bag of Sour Patch kids. I thought my four year old would melt out of the cart in a puddle of happiness and disbelief. She clapped her hands and reached for them. “They’re for the cheesecake,” I told her. Her eyes rolled back into her head and she collapsed into the bottom of the shopping cart. Emma loves cheesecake. Candy was apparently the only thing missing.
I went on a bender of cheesecake baking about a year ago, just after the holidays. My first attempt was implausibly perfect, a restaurant quality feat of custard and crust that begged to be eaten in one sitting.
The next 5 or 6 were terrible. They blew up, they got wet, they resembled pudding. I hadn’t taken a picture of my first success, and began to wonder if it was a trick of my mind, wishful thinking powerful enough to manufacture desserts like one of those 3-D printers.
Flash forward to fall of 2013 and it’s a cheesecake-athon in my kitchen at all possible times. Today, right after I left the candy aisle, I bought out the store of 3 packs of cream cheese. I bought a 5 pound tub of sour cream. Eggs (since our chickens can’t be bothered), and bottles of vanilla. The four year old sat in the cart, covered in dairy and Sour Patch Kids, playing with my iPhone.
Our extended family community has 2 in college currently, and 3 more who will be. They are the fabulous of the fabulous kids, conscientious and hard working, and all of them are contributing to their education. We are blessed. We were thrilled when two received scholarships, a third went to work for FEMA to earn an education award, and another is tackling all of the jobs 24 hours can hold in order to save money.
Still, there are books and activities and other stuff – endless stuff – that just makes this time cost more than anyone thinks possible.
Which brings me to the Sour Patch Kids. I’ve been asked if I would sell so-and-so a cheesecake or donate a cheesecake so often in the past few months that finally I did it. Samples have gone out and orders are coming in and I’m in no way prepared…everyone is going to have to learn to make cheesecake, I fear. My nephew’s was first, mostly because I thought the result would be beautiful and unusual and appealing.
And that’s why I’m in the candy aisle.
Emma’s happy. I’ve sampled so much that I feel like I may need some blood work done in the near future. I’ve started juicing again to combat my surely climbing sugar levels.
Look for us soon at http://www.universitycheesecake.com
I’m feeling eclipsed by all of this blog technology. Seems like we need to have dedicated space now, since we’ve made the firm official and all, and are heading for our General Contractor’s license this fall. Welcome to the world Carolina House Company. Maybe we’ll share the same birthday as the Prince or Princess of Cambridge. That’d be cool. One day we can be King.
Anyhow, we’ve moved all of our cool small house stuff to a new blog location. We’ve made alot of progress on the thing, between the brotherly brawls and rain that would not, never, ever stop. Our coffee’s not good enough for us to be in the Pacific Northwest – but the weather is perfect for such a thing.
Find us now at http://earthiseasy.wordpress.com/
Carolina House Company. Tight spaces. Big places.
If she’ll eat it, I’m happy. The kids call it “supper pizza,” and no matter what vegetables I put in it they scarf it down and ask for more.
About this time of year I use Goosefoot alot. People here in North Carolina tend to call it Lambsquarter. It’s a straight up weed, and you probably have it growing in your yard, or your alley, or on the side of your road. The thing about weeds is that they haven’t been coddled and fed and babied for eight thousand years, so they can hold their own without alot of watering and feeding.
Goosefoot grows high – mine are up to 7 or 8 feet if I let them. The leaves are the shape of a goose’s foot and are a powdery green. I harvest them all spring and summer. The leaves are best raw when the plants are small, but the new leaves on older plants are also good in salad and on sandwiches. I use the older leaves chopped and cooked in quiche, lasagna, soup, eggs, and frittata. The leaves of this awesome plants are the second most nutritious you can eat – only Amaranth is more nutritious. It has a taste like spinach with a nutty finish that reminds me of its close cousin grain, quinoa.
I had an Italian boyfriend once who cooked frittata constantly. He always used rice in the bottom of the iron pan, then covered it with fish or chicken or sausage and a handful of vegetables, followed by egg. I thought it was the most exotic thing I’d ever tasted, straight from Italy for sure. Back then, though, I thought the town of Bayonne, NJ where he lived was exotic, too. I didn’t realize that frittata is a rustic mélange of everything left over from last night covered with egg, and is really, really simple. You don’t really need the rice, but I like how it looks and the texture it leaves. You can also use pasta in place of the rice, or potatoes, or nothing at all.
Fritatta is also fairly flat. I thought in the beginning it should be the thickness of a quiche, but not so – 1/2 and inch seems about right depending on your ingredients. Once your mixture is laid out in your pan the pan is cooked slowly – for up to 15 minutes – over low heat until the bottom and sides are crispy and set and the middle is still soft. Then it’s finished with overhead heat (I use the broiler).
We took these to a weekly dinner last night and they were a hit even with the 4 and 6 year old. My friend’s husband liked them okay, and loved yelling Free Tatas! Free Tatas! as he served. Whatever it takes.
For the first recipe, if you can’t find Goosefoot (then you aren’t trying), you can use spinach or kale.
Really you can put almost anything into a frittata. The mixture should be wet but not runny, enough egg that it will hold everything together – but no one wants egg pie. I also did one with green peppers, tomato, and basil:
As my niece says: What’s the point of cooking if you can’t take pictures of the food?
2 cups cooked rice or pasta (or not)
3/4 cup chopped Goosefoot, sauteed
2 sweet potatoes, cubed and cooked
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
Herbs – basil, thyme, sage, etc. Whatever you have in the garden. If you have no herbs in the garden then c’est la vie.
salt and pepper
Beat the eggs in a bowl with salt and pepper. Add all of the other ingredients and stir. Pour about 3 tablespoons of olive oil in your cast iron pan and wait for it to get hot. Once it’s good and dangerous, scoop your mixture into the pan and spread it out toward the sides. This volume of mixture will make just about 2 frittatas in a 10 inch pan. If it doesn’t reach all the way to the side don’t worry – it will still cook and be delicious. Maker sure that your heat is on low, and don’t rush things. When the sides and bottom are set, transfer the pan into your oven and broil until the top is set and bubbly/browned.
Everyone always knows when we’re in the Habitat ReStore in the middle of the town where we live. We’re ear shatteringly loud. We argue. Jeer at one another from across the room. The boys toss serrated pieces of metal back and forth over the heads of other customers. But they keep letting us in and know us by name.
Today we were looking for joist hangers and number 12 nailgun nails. The nails were a no go, but we found the hangers and got a terrific deal on them. The ReStore beats Lowe’s and Home Depot all to hell.
It’s at checkout that we get slowed down. There’s always someone who doesn’t know what’s going on, and Bob is very happy to explain it to them. He’s super knowledgeable, and if they leave a little more confused than when they walked in, well… that’s the price of learning.
We adjusted the floorplan and agreed (I think) on the first floor layout. I’ll leave it to the Engineer to draw it to scale. They’re lucky I stuck to pencil and didn’t cover the paper in crayon and stickers.
We needed a 220 outlet for equipment, and since there was a monsoon outside for most of the day, Greg spent some time in the barn handling the wiring. Electricians really should be the ones with a God complex, if anyone should. Let There Be Light and all that. God just made the sun shine…I’ve got lights and power in a barn.
Well don’t that just beat all, as my Grandmommy would say.
We have friends who without question come and dig holes in our yard. Not little itsy bitsy holes for, say, seed planning… but great monster holes in which one might cantilever a grapevine standard or pour concrete for the foundation of the house. These friends don’t quibble about the size or the placement of the holes or why we need them where we need them. They do not, when the grapes die and the concrete goes unpoured say, “That’s it! No more hole digging for us, we’re off duty.” Instead, they drink their beer and throw the next shovel load of dirt off to the side.
The hole digging is over. (at least for now). The bad news is that we won’t be needing those holes – not even the ones where the grapes were planted (we’ve pretty much given up on grapes). The even worse news is that we had a tractor auger in the barn the whole time.
We’re still building the house, but it’s on blocks. So it can travel. Anywhere.
I married into a family of Jersey contractors. I’ve become enchanted by small houses - tiny houses, even, to use the coined phrase. Why build a great big house where there’s room for everything? No challenge in that. What we need to do is build something so small, so miniscule on every level that just fitting in every day things like a toilet becomes an issue. If you’ve ever been in one of Ikea’s 10×10 rooms that they make look totally awesome you might know what I mean.
So my guys got to work. Floorplan in a format that will mean anything to anyone is coming soon. Here are pictures of the construction to date:
The very early stages of laying out the lumber. All of the lumber so far is repurposed from other construction projects. (Ducks and chickens are repurposed from their pens and are always ready to help.)
The foundation box going together.
The joists went in preliminarily with 3 inch screws. We added hangers later that day.
I struggled with what to call these. “Cakes” actually doesn’t sound exactly right, but it’s the best I have so far. They’re more like patties, actually, but that just sounds too Morrison’s Cafeteria for me (NOT that there is a thing in the world wrong with Morrison’s Cafeteria. But I don’t think they serve vegan food.) Cutlets sounds like little TV dinner-style pieces of meat, and I wasn’t sure if “croquettes” was technically correct.
So Cakes it is.
I paired these with homemade cranberry sauce, which took exactly the same amount of time to cook as the cakes took to saute. I may try flash browning and then baking them next – too much time at the pan for my taste, but they surely were good. I also threw some peas on the side of the plate. Emma like s peas, and I like Emma, so there you go.
- 1 Cup of brown (or any other) rice, cooked
- Coconut or olive oil for browning onions and garlic
- 2 large onions
- 4 cloves (at least) of garlic
- 3 1/2 cups of peanuts (I cheat and add cashews, walnuts, and pecans. But it’s mostly peanuts.)
- A bunch of fresh cilantro or parsley, whichever you prefer
- 4 Tb of soy sauce
- Half a cup of shredded carrots
- Salt and Pepper to taste
Brown the onions and the garlic. I do this very slowly and get them a deep brown, so that even non-onion eaters are stealing them from the pan.
Send all of the ingredients (except the oil) to their death in the food processor until the whole shebang is a paste. If it seems too thick too work with, add a touch of water.
Form into patties, and fry shallowly until they are crisp and brown.
Woo hoo! That’s it!