Wednesday, November 30, 2011

“SAUCE, n. The one infallible sign of civilization and enlightenment.” ~ 
Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914)

When Bruce and I did our fabulous fall traveling, the only thing that I regretted was that I was not able to take the next few cooking classes that Fabio was offering.  I introduced you to Fabio of Fabio's Italian Kitchen back in September, when I took the first of his new cooking classes - Pasta!  It was wonderful, and I was so sorry to miss "Sauces" and "Seafood".  Happily, Fabio is running them again, though with a different menu.  It had been my intention to combine both today's class (sauces) and next week's class (seafood) into one post - but there are just too many mouthwatering photos to reasonably do that. 

The menu for today's class:

CLASSIC BÉCHAMEL (The secrets of making one of the most popular mother sauces)

PAPPARDELLE ALFREDO SHRIMP AND BROCCOLI (Homemade pappardelle pasta with "Alfredo" sauce)

TORTELLINI ALLA VODKA CON PANCETTA (Homemade cheese tortellini with vodka sauce and pancetta)

POLLO AL PESTO (Lightly floured pan seared fresh chicken breast sautéed with onions and artichoke hearts, finished with homemade pesto sauce)

 As with Fabio's previous class, I really enjoyed the hands-on approach. His classes are a wonderful combination of demonstration and participation.  I feel that we really have the opportunity to learn what we are doing.

Our host, Fabio, preparing to cut pappardelle into strips.
Lilibeth, Fabio's assistant and an absolute sweetheart!

The pappardelle~
We cut our own ~

The addition of parmigiano reggiano, which Fabio insists is THE best! 
Browning garlic ~
Stirring the bechamel sauce ~
Adding wine~
The finished dish:  pappardelle with shrimp and broccoli - indescribable!
Pancetta for dish number 2 ~
Cutting pasta into squares to make tortellini ~
Fabio's were perfect ~
Ours?  Well, not quite so much!
Adding the vodka to the sauce!!! 
Plum tomatoes were also added ~

The completed dish ~ tortellini alla vodka con pancetta ~ Heaven!
Basil for the pesto sauce for dish number 3 ~
Browning the chicken cutlets ~
The artichoke hearts are added ~ 
The completed dish: pollo alla pesto ~  Yum!

Next week I will bring you (with a little help from Fabio) the Seafood class!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

"One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating." ~ Luciano Pavarotti

I must say - We are good! When four people come together after having chosen their own dishes and recipes, albeit while following a theme, I think that there is a chance that dishes may not necessarily mesh. Not with us (or at least so far).  We met recently at our friend Chris's home for our South American themed BITE (But Is This Edible?) dinner. The foods could not have been more complimentary.  Remember, one of the purposes for following a theme is to stretch ourselves and try things that we had not done before - of course - eating and drinking with friends ranks right up there as well!

As hostess, Chris was responsible for the entree and the beverages.  First below is a photo of the wines that she selected:

The wines were  a Pinot Noir from Chile, by Humberto Canale Estate; a Malbec from Catena, Argentina, by Alamos and a Natura Carmenere by Emiliana Vineyards, also from Argentina.  All three were purchased at Red Feet Wine Market in Ithaca, NY.  They specialize in organic wines and those from small vineyards.
I opted for a nice cold Dos Equis!
Tierney was in charge of the appetizer.  What a winning combination - whoever would have thought to combine black beans and bananas? Her Banana-Black Bean Empanadas were absolutely delicious. Give me anything wrapped in puff pastry, and I'm a happy girl!

Banana-black Bean Empanadas
Next, Ellen prepared our side dishes for the evening.  The first was a wonderful dish of asparagus with red pepper and shaved cheese (parmesan I think - correct me if I'm wrong, Ellen)

I'm not sure that this came from a particular recipe - it is however - a fabulous mixture of flavors.

Empanadas as asparagus side-by-side - YUM!

Ellen's second side dish was Brazilian Black Beans.  This dish called for the addition of sherry and orange juice!  It was just wonderful!

Brazilian Black Beans
Now we come to the entree, which Chis prepared.  She selected Chicken Stew with Chile.  It was absolutely as delicious as it looks.  We all agreed that it reminded us of chicken cacciatore, but with a South American flair!

Chicken Stew with Chile
Just delicious!
The recipe for the chicken stew calls for "AJI", which reminded us all of a kind of relish.

The addition of some rice and sour cream - and our meal was complete!

Doesn't it make your mouth water?  It really was that good!

Lastly we come to my contribution to the evening's meal.  I took care of dessert - and if you recall last time, I mentioned  that I am not a baker, so doing dessert was a challenge for me.  I made Traditional Alfajores - a caramel sandwich cookie.  I am not much of a sweets person, and these were really sweet - but - they were really good!  A very delicate butter cookie sandwiching a thick dulce de leche (caramel). Making the dulce de leche took me back to many years ago, when I was part of a family that traditionally made "carmel pudding".  This is done by simmering sweetened condensed milk in an unopened can for 3 hours.  Sounds crazy I know - but it works and it's delicious!

Traditional Alfajores
Happily, I made a double batch so that I had some to take to my sister's for Thanksgiving!

So there you have it!  All of the recipes can be found by either clicking on the link below the pictures, or by going to my BITE page at the right of my blog.  Up next month "A Colonial Christmas Dinner" - sounds wonderful!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

"The hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count our blessings." ~ Eric Hoffer, Reflections On The Human Condition

To open the paper; to turn on the news; to hear people talk - we are a world gone mad.  It is very easy for me, and I think for most of us, to be swept up in the current state of affairs - both locally and globally - how can we not?  

Back when Oprah was on, I used to love to hear her talk about the things that she was grateful for - she didn't just chat about it at Thanksgiving - she mentioned her gratitude regularly.  It had always been my intention to keep a "Gratitude Journal", but I never did.  Today I will share with you the things for which I feel gratitude and thankfulness, even when the world does not seem a kind place - my guess is that many of you feel the same way!

I am thankful for ~

  • My husband, who is a wonderful husband, father, step-father, grandfather, son and son-in-law.  He loves me, encourages my interests and holds my hand in public - I love you!
  • My son, who has a strong moral compass, wants to make the world a better place, is good to his grandparents, will soon begin a job in his field and who empties the dishwasher - I love you!
  • My parents, who despite a few bumps in the road this past year, are here and healthy and continuing to nurture their children, grandchildren and community - I love you!
  • My sisters, though scattered and living their own lives, are always there for me and our parents, who can make me laugh and cry and would drop everything and come running if I needed them - I love you!
  • My step-children, who are wonderful people and parents - I love you!
  • My step-grandchildren, who are bright and inquisitive - I love you!
  • My friends, who also make me laugh and cry, who nurture my need for good times and creativity, who are always up for a good laugh and a glass of wine, and who would also drop everything and come running if I needed them - I love you!

I know that I could write a much lengthier list - but the really important things - they're all up above.

On another, though somewhat related note, the ornaments are up and for sale in Renee's shop Spun Right Round.  Check out the pictures ~

Remember that the ornaments are $10 each, with all proceeds going to our local Salvation Army at 138 Main St., Cortland, NY.  

Made Locally!

Purchased Locally!

Benefits Locally!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

“Tasting what could have been—what should have been—didn't make it easier.” ~ Kele Moon, Beyond Eden

This month, our book group has selected "State of Wonder" by Ann Patchett.  This is the second of her books that we have read, the other being "Bel Canto".  I have also read "Run" outside of group.  I read "State of Wonder" shortly after it came out this summer - the library had a copy on hand, which does not often happen with a new release. 

A brief synopsis of the story - ripped from Amazon:
"Dr. Marina Singh, a research scientist with a Minnesota pharmaceutical company, is sent to Brazil to track down her former mentor, Dr. Annick Swenson, who seems to have all but disappeared in the Amazon while working on what is destined to be an extremely valuable new drug, the development of which has already cost the company a fortune. Nothing about Marina's assignment is easy: not only does no one know where Dr. Swenson is, but the last person who was sent to find her, Marina's research partner Anders Eckman, died before he could complete his mission. Plagued by trepidation, Marina embarks on an odyssey into the insect-infested jungle in hopes of finding her former mentor as well as answers to several troubling questions about her friend's death, the state of her company's future, and her own past."

I must say that I loved "State of Wonder".   I will admit the need to suspend reality a bit, but I usually do not have a problem with that!  I will not pretend to be a book reviewer here - just someone who likes to read, and likes to let others know what I like!  This story contains some very contemporary issues, wrapped up in an intriguing  mystery.  It hits upon:

  • women's reproductive rights
  • the increased incidence of women past menopause who are becoming pregnant and giving birth
  • the role of pharmaceuticals in what makes it into the public arena and at what cost
  • a woman's "biological clock"
  • how the past may not haunt us in exactly the way we anticipate
Additionally, you have the protagonist, Marina, who travels from Eden Prairie, Minnesota to the deep Amazon to enter a world that contains its own kind of "forbidden (or perhaps bidden) fruit".  Without giving anything away, the ending is made for Hollywood.  

Most of the reviews that I have read are quite favorable, though not all.  I believe that this is a worthy read, as are the other two of hers that I have enjoyed.  Below is a brief interview with Ann Patchett specifically talking about "A State of Wonder".

I loved both of these books as well.  It's interesting the things that you pick up.  In "Run", published in 2007, there is reference to a campaign sign hanging in a window that says "Obama - 2012".  "Bel Canto" is set in Peru.  A fascinating story - I found it gripping from beginning to end. Our book group has a member from Peru, and she shed light upon the fact the the incident in the story is a fictionalized account of something that actually occurred.  Her first hand experience brought a wholly different perspective to the story that we had read.  I am continually amazed at how much I really do not know.  I guess that that is a good thing - it encourages the desire to learn.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

"The reason birds can fly and we can't is simply that they have perfect faith, for to have faith is to have wings." ~ J.M. Barrie

Today, I'm going to take a bit of a break from my usual musings and share a video clip recently forwarded to me by my sister Robin - it is quite remarkable.  This was shot only a little more than a week ago.  Click on the "tube" in the lower right corner to get to a larger frame.    Enjoy!!!!!

Update - this video has been removed from You Tube by the artists (??? - I can't imagine why)  Anyhow, you can still see it on a different site if you go to: this site.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

"A day spent with a friend is a memory made." ~ Unknown

Earlier this week, on yet another stellar autumn day, my dear friend Tierney and I decided that a road trip was just the right way to spend the day.  Tierney, of Silver Trumpet Style, is my blogging mentor and inspiration, to say nothing of being one the most talented young women I know.  Can I also mention that she is just one fine human being?

Tierney and her trusty camera!

Early in the morning, we hit the road for Montezuma Wildlife Refuge, located about an hour away from where we live.  During our travels there and back, aside from a very close encounter with a pickup driver who didn't know how to drive, we managed to solve all of the problems of the world - so you may now rest easy.

"Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge was established on September 12, 1938 as a refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife. The refuge provides resting, feeding, and nesting habitat for waterfowl and other migratory birds. Montezuma is situated in the middle of one of the most active flight lanes in the Atlantic Flyway."

Once arrived, we grabbed our cameras and began snapping shots of the flora and fauna (I have a whole section I will title "The Milkweed Waltzes")

Here come the Milkweed Waltzes!

Geese and more geese ~ I guess that would be a gaggle!

~ and one lone hawk ~

Have I mentioned recently that I love being retired?