HOW TO PEEL THE PERFECT HARD-COOKED EGG . . . a.k.a. HOW TO COOK A WOLF

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This is one of those Ah-Ha moments.  We’ve all encountered the recalcitrant egg that absolutely refuses to come clean from its shell.   But, do I really need to be told “how to peel an egg”?   This sounds suspiciously like an excerpt  from M.F.K.Fisher’s book HOW TO COOK A WOLF.     This simple recipe bears repeating.   It’s  a simple trick we sometimes forget, go back to hard boiling eggs the old way and  end up dealing with a frustrating mess of egg shells and pock-market eggs

I strolled down the road to Home Farm to pick up eggs early  this morning.  Now I am peeling the shell off perfect, alabaster hard-cooked eggs.  The whites must be flawless smooth to make “deviled eggs” .

In the fields outside my kitchen window my neighbor is laying down heavy, thick swaths of hay.  The air is fragrant with the sweet perfume of the cut grass.  It is one of those perfect mornings when all is right with the world.  And,  my very fresh hard-cooked eggs are perfection themselves.  This  sounds like an oxymoran for fresh eggs have a well-earned reputation for being famously difficult to peel.

Instead of boiling eggs the traditional way steam your eggs in a steamer basket suspended over boiling water.  If you don’t have a steamer basket use a colander that fits your saucepan.   Bring water to the boil.  Put your eggs in basket or colander and put a lid on the pan.  Cook for 15 to 16 minutes then pop into very cold water or an ice bath for another five or ten minutes. The shells slip right off.

Now isn’t that easier than cooking a wolf?  Bon Appetit dear friends.

CHEDDAR AND GRUYERE CRACKERS . . . Frozen savory assets for the holidays.

I like to make a splash  with holiday hors d’oeuvres.     Step out of the ordinary.  Conjure up the unexpected.   There is nothing more wonderful.  Nothing more special than freshly baked homemade crackers.  These are a snap to make.    A double dose of sharp cheese makes addictive crackers then don’t even need a topping.  Just whip up a handful of ingredients.  Pop them in the freezer and  slice off rounds whenever you want to serve freshly baked crackers.

They may seem like the last thing you have time for during the holidays but the dough for these savory slice-and-bake comes together in minutes.  Make a batch or double the recipe for a bigger stash.  You won’t regret it.

Dear friends, you know how I love to gild the lily.  These crackers take beautifully to hits of hot red pepper jelly or pungent blue cheese.  A little Brie or Gouda topped with a wafer thin slice of Granny Smith apple would go down treat.

Serve your wondrous cracker creations with glass of bubbly on New Year’s Eve.  You’ll be the toast of the town!  The recipe awaits your nimble fingers in MRSBUTTERFINGER’S kitchen.

THE MAGIC OF OVEN ROASTED TOMATOES . . . Capturing the joy of summer all winter long.

Through the halcyon days of summer I plundered the garden for the fattest, juiciest,  reddest of red tomatoes.  The days shortened.  Marine fog drifted across the fields poking destructive fingers into the garden.    Time to harvest the tomatoes, ripe or green.    The heady fragrance of tomato leaves surrounded me as I  filled my basket with these last jewels of summer.

The green tomatoes were tucked single layer in closed cardboard boxes.  As they changed colour out they came to sit in a bright window.  Taking the sun.    I had already frozen tomatoes for soups and stews.  These tomatoes were to be oven roasted and frozen.

I cut the little cores out.   Sliced the tomatoes in half.  Placed them in parchment lined pans ( saves scrubbing pans ).   The tomatoes were sprinkled with a little coarse sea salt and freshly ground black paper.  Then  with a breeze  of olive oil and graced with whole sprigs of fresh thyme.

Roast the tomatoes at 275F for about five hours.  Then increase the oven temperature to 300F for the last hour.  Watch these little darlings.  The smaller tomatoes will brown faster and should be removed.  You don’t want them to become dry and brittle.  Toss the dried thyme.    Store the tomatoes in plastic freezer containers with layers of parchment papers between the slices.  Five pounds of fresh tomatoes will reduce down to about one pound.

It really is like magic!   Oven roasted tomatoes on pizza are  nothing short of divine.     Tossed in pasta dishes they are brilliant shots of colour and flavour.      Roasted tomatoes in the humblest of sandwiches takes the sandwich to delicious heights.  Or try coarsely chopped roasted tomatoes  and goat cheese on a baguette.

Bon Appetit dear friends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE MAGIC VEGETABLE … ZUCCHINI FRITTERS WITH FETA

I have a magic  zucchini factory in the garden.   One minute beautiful yellow flowers, then POOF, elegant slender zucchini.    One must lift the safe-guarding prickly leaves to be sure to find every zucchini.  Then you gather intoxicating handfuls of mint, dill and parsley.  It is these herbs that make this particular recipe for zucchini fritters so delicious.  Toss in some cubed feta cheese and you are away to the races.

Put small dollops of your zucchini mixture into the saute pan.  They are perfect for appetizers.  Serve them with a simple little dipping sauce of mayonnaise sparked with Sriracha sauce and thinned with a little white wine vinegar.

Or use a large amount of the mixtures for generous sized fritters perfect for a meal.    Garnish with a smattering of Greek yogurt and a sprinkling lemon zest and a little sea salt.  Add a simple tossed salad and you have the ultimate summer meal.

This taste of summer awaits you in MRS.BUTTERFINGERS kitchen.

PUT A LITTLE SPICE IN YOUR LIFE WITH THESE CRUNCHY CHICKPEAS.

I always put out  a few nibbles  with our before dinner drinks.   Something to take off the hunger edge but not spoil you for dinner.  This is a Mediterranean version of Japanese wasabi peas.  Perfect for serving with cocktails.   They are salty, spicy, lemony and loaded with fresh herbs.   It’s a “wiggle and a shake to make”.   An addictive alternative to store-brought crunchies.     My herb garden is lush with  aromatic herbs, a perfect time to whip up  this recipe and serve it with a well chilled bottle of rosé wine.   Make a double recipe and store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Put on your apron and slip into MRS.BUTTERFIELD’S kitchen for this recipe for CRUNCHY SPICED CHICKPEAS.

 

 

 

MRS BUTTERFINGERS TWO EASY HOLIDAY DIPS … CAESAR DIP AND CREAMY CHEVRE DIP

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While I’m swanning around having a beatific time  decorating the house for Christmas my alter-ego Mrs. Butterfingers is puttering about in the kitchen.     There is panetonne set to raise   .  Mince pies to roll out.  Short bread to bake.  The kitchen is filled with delicious aromas of Christmas.

Mrs. Butterfingers keeps a few easy recipes for dips in her apron pocket.  Add the basic ingredients to your grocery shopping list  and keep them to hand.  They are refreshingly different and  delicious rift on some old friends.

This CAESAR DIP  leaves the salad bowl and takes on a new role as a great dip.  Use the pale green heart leaves of romaine or roll the large leaves lengthwise into tight cylinders.

CREAMY CHÈVRE DIP  combines herbs, hot pepper sauce and sun-dried tomatoes for a creamy dip for crunchy fresh vegetable sticks.  They are deceptively easy but the precut vegetable trays are not always the freshest.    For the crispest possible vegetables create your own from carrots, celery ,fennel, red pepper and green beans.  If you use broccoli blanch and refresh it in ice water for the bright green appearance and tender stalks.

Christmas recipes await you in MRS. BUTTERFINGERS kitchen.

 

ZEN AND THE ART OF PICKLING DILLY GREEN BEANS

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Pickling is a state of mind.  Ask anyone who pickles.  There is something rather atavistic about preparing food to be stored away for the coming winter.  There is a strong feeling of accomplishment as you tuck away jars of preserves.  Once you’ve made your first batch of pickles it could be the beginning of a wonderful, addictive relationship with all kinds of pickles and relishes.

It’s really not complicated.    You prepare your vegetables.  Wash and sterilize your jars.  Fill the jars.  Process the jars,  That’s it.  If you don’t have a canning pot with a rack – no worries.    Simply follow the processing instructions in the recipe.

This recipe for oh- so -mouth-puckering pickled green dilly beans is quite simple.  You cut your beans to fit into the wide-mouth canning jars.  Mix up your vinegar, water and salt.  Then you put a little red pepper flakes, some mustard seeds and lots of dill seed into each jar.  Tuck in the beans.  Pour the hot vinegar mixture over.  Seal the jars and process them in boiling water for 15 minutes and you’re done.  You can cut the recipe in half if you just have a few beans picked up at the farmer’s market.

The very, very best part of these pickled bean – they make the best ” nibbly” appetizer along with some crackers and a little cheese.The recipe for PICKLED DILLY BEANS is on my food blog MRS.BUTTERFINGERS.

 

 

CHEESE GOUGERES – the perfect appetizer to compliment a very French dinner.

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It was an important evening.  We were celebrating the joy of life with friends and family.  The dinner –  cassoulet ( three days in the creation of that rich French dish of beans, lamb and pork) with a green salad and for dessert crème brûlée.  The challenge  – the perfect appetizer to compliment this very French dinner.  It’s a fine balance.  I wanted to serve an appetizer that would not distract from the main course or heaven forbid – the dessert.

Gougères were the answer to this menu dilemma. My favorite way to serve gougères is adding cheese to the mixture.  You simply grate any hard or semi-hard cheese into your batter then spoon the mixture onto parchment lined baking sheets.  You can bake them immediately but a better choice  is freezing them.   Once frozen scoop them into freezer bags and store until needed.  No thawing necessary.  Simply follow the baking instructions and add a couple of minutes to the baking time. Then tumble these delectable morsels onto a gorgeous serving plate and watch them disappear.

You can bake the classic gougères and fill the delicate little darlings with a flavourful filling.  Think wild mushrooms in a creamy sauce.  Or finely chopped shrimp spiked with wasbi.   The choice is limitless.  Filled gougères freeze beautifully –  simply reheat in a 400F oven for about 15 minutes.

Join me MRS. BUTTERFINGERS in my kitchen and create magic with GOUGÈRES.

SAVORY CHEESE AND CHIVE BREAD

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I started baking cakes when I was nine or ten years old.  I made quick breads.  They were the easiest.  No whipping egg whites.  No careful folding of flour. Baking utensils were basic. An egg-beater for whipping egg whites and cream.  A large white bowl for mixing.   A heavy spoon for creaming butter.   The forefinger on my right hand still has a tiny bump on it caused by countless of hours of creaming butter and sugar.

The baking of a loaf cake was also easier.  It did not require a quick oven (very hot).  Simply a nice steady heat.  As the cook I had to regulate the heat of our wood burning stove.  If the wood was cut to thin it would spit and crackle and burn too hot and too quickly.  I would test the heat of the oven by opening it and putting my hand in to feel the heat.  One that was created by medium sized logs burning steadily and quietly. I still find myself double checking an oven temperature in this way.

Savory cakes are popular in France.  The cake salé as it is known   (salé  means salty or savory) is a simple quick bread recipe.  You whisk all the dry ingredients together in one bowl. All the rest in another.  Then gently combine the two.  It takes less than ten minutes to put together and like my youthful loaf cakes requires no special equipment.

I made this savory cheese and chive bread  to serve with aperitifs.  I was celebrating a major birthday and my two sisters were traveling from Prince Albert to Vancouver to help me blow out birthday candles.   The bread is also perfect for brunch, excellent with salads and delicious lightly toasted and buttered.

This version is simple –  using just old cheddar cheese and snipped chives but it also a great way to use those left-over  odd-sized pieces of cheese you have on hand.  It is good with basil or a mix of herbs.  Or you can be creative and mix in diced ham or bacon, toasted chopped nuts, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, or minced shallot.

You can serve this warm but it tastes better when it has cooled completely.  If you’re serving it with drinks, cut it into 8 slices about 1/2 thick, and cut the slices into strips.  SAVORY CHEESE AND CHIVE BREAD   …   Bon Appetite.

 

MENU FOR A PERFECT PICNIC

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Rillettes of Pork.  The name sound like something you would like to take on a picnic?   You know – one of those picnics where you spread heavy blankets and soft cushions over fragrant grass.   Throw a checked tablecloth down.  Unload crystal wine glasses, linen napkins and heavy silver from an ancient picnic basket.  You open a terrine of  rillettes of pork.  Smear it generously on crusty bread.   Add some sharp, sweet gherkins.  Open a bottle of good red wine. Utter Bliss.

Rillettes of pork is a type of French pate famous around the Loire.  It’s sold everywhere in charcuteries and I even spotted it in supermarket.  The ingredients are very basic – Boston butt and pork fat. These are the two main ingredients of divine pate the English call “potted meat”. If you can find a good butcher shop selling organic pork and organic pork fat that is the best way to go.  If that is not possible buy a very fatty Boston butt  and use fat cut from the meat.  You also can use fresh pork belly.  Since we raise our own pork I used the”fat back” in this recipe.

Chunks of pork and fat are braised slowly until the moisture evaporates the meat is fork tender.  The meat and fat is mashed and packed into a terrine or small ramekins.  The fat that tops this decadent bit of delight has simmered with the meat and for me it is the best part of pork rillettes.   There is a little back and forth  into the refrigerator but the recipe is easy.  Most of the time spent is the slow simmering of the meat so do plan to make this when you can pop back into the kitchen and keep an eye on things.  The rillettes will keep, well wrapped, in the refrigerator for 2 weeks.  You can also freeze pork rillettes.

RILLETTES OF PORK  – a delicious appetizer and part of your menu for a perfect picnic.