winter

Love At First Bite

With the recent cold dips in temperature, I’m reminded of what comfort food is all about. Easy, especially when you have a husband who constantly reminds you. “I don’t eat fish when it’s cold outside. Fish is a summer food.”

Hmph. Has the man never tasted a wonderfully warm and succulent pan-seared dolphin with jambalaya? I mean, seriously. We just celebrated Fat Tuesday, a day for pancakes and all things crazy. But Mardi Gras was so yesterday and I’m sitting at the dinner table with a family looking for comfort.

kale in chicken soup

What do I serve? For starters, we think of chicken soup during the cold snaps. It’s the only time I make it and I do so from scratch using carrots from my garden. I’d use the sweet onions from my garden, but they aren’t ready for harvest and celery is not on my to-grow list. We simply don’t eat enough of it. But I do have kale so I toss in a few leaves and dive in heartily.

French Onion soup

Next up is my Savory French Onion Soup. This is one of my all-time favorites. It’s easy to make though it tends to take a bit of time. And what good soup doesn’t? Definitely worth a try for your family.

onion gratin

While we’re on the topic of onions, how about Onions Au Gratin? This one is a spinoff of the French Onion Soup and worth every ounce of effort. Again, I must use grocer onions because mine won’t be ready until April. Wah.

Baked Sweet Onions

While we’re on the topic of onions, how about some Baked Sweet Onions?

comfort in cabbage and onions

Maybe a bit of Sautéed Cabbage and Onions? A Cabbage Bake?

potatoes and cabbage steaming hot out of the oven

How about a lovely side dish of Rosemary Roasted Potatoes? Easy and delicious!

roasted potatoes

For dessert, I’m heading for the Butterscotch Cookies. Found this recipe while perusing some of my cooking magazines and had to share. The butterscotch flavor screams comfort and the soft melt-in-your mouth goodness backs it up.

Butterscotch Cookies 2

But watch yourself–not only do these taste divine but your belly will fall madly in love and you might find yourself overstuffing! This kind of comfort makes me feel like I’m drifting on cloud nine… Follow the links for full recipes, or check my Recipe section here on the blog for these delicious numbers and more!

 

 

Winter in the Garden

I realize that “winter” is a relative term when it comes to Florida, but we really are experiencing some cold weather this month. It’s been in the 30s…!!! Brrrrrrr. Thank goodness there’s no negative sign before that number. I think my face would fall off! Instead, it’s seasonably cold, just enough to give us a taste of winter.

A taste my cabbage plants are loving. They thrive in brisk, sunny temps.

cabbage is happy

Peppers normally don’t, yet strangely, I haven’t lost them. I didn’t bother to cover them, deciding on a minimalist approach this year yet look at them. They’re fine! Sort of. More

Thanks, Jack Frost!

Because you were kind enough to delay your visit to Florida this year, my tomatoes are blooming, producing quite the bounty!  Why, just look at these gorgeous babies…

Aren’t they fabulous?  And better yet, they taste delicious–especially in sauce form.  But before we get to the kitchen, I wanted to share a few things I learned this season with regard to growing tomatoes.  Number one:  sturdy triangle towers are your BEST bet.  This round contraption with the adjustable vertical supports was no good.  Actually collapsed beneath the weight of the plant!

Sure, I could have manipulated the positioning of these supports and in fact did so several times–but is that how I want to be spending my time in the garden?  Nope.  I’d rather stroll down to the garden and admire my sturdy triangle tomato towers, and then pluck ruby-red tomatoes (or nearly so) from my plants.  I mean, that’s the reason I’m gardening, right?  The harvest?

Yes.  And once I gather a basket-full of San Marzanos, it’s off to check on the others.  My Lincoln tomatoes are doing well, but why are some of them yellow?  In fact, they look amazingly similar to the Lemon Drop variety I saw in one of my seed catalogs.  Hmph.  I don’t remember ordering those, let alone planting them!

But stranger things have happened.  I guess.  Right?  No worries.  It’s all fun. 🙂  Wandering still further, I noticed this little beauty.

Don’t ask me how it ended up in my tomato cage.  Blame it on the fact that I expanded the garden into the wildflower field, coupled with unseasonably warm weather…  Not really sure.  Like I said–strange things are happening around here.  Yet wonderful things are about to happen in my kitchen!  C’mon, I’ll show you! 

Now making tomato sauce is an easy task.  Easier when using canned, but we’re gardeners and a little extra effort to use fresh doesn’t bother us in the least bit.  So first things first, we need to remove the skin and seeds.  I call this “blanch and push.”  You’ll find full instructions on how-to in my recipe section but for now, we’ll cover the basics. 

Next up is the cooking process.  First you’ll want to saute onion and garlic in olive oil and then add your tomatoes.  Mush ’em up real good (helps them cling to the noodles).  Add the seasoning of your choice, bring to a boil and then simmer on low for 20 minutes to several hours. 

Wow.  That’s vague. 

Yes.  And so are most Italians when you ask them how to make tomato sauce.  Some may slant you the evil eye while others will simply smile yet remain mum.  You see, tomato sauce is akin to the family jewels when it comes to Italians and they won’t share (other than with their firstborn) the recipe for their tomato sauce.  Shoot–some won’t even eat another’s sauce let alone tell you how they make theirs!

Blasphemy, pure and simple.  But since I’m only Italian by marriage, I’ll share with you what I’ve learned along the way.  Sauce to Italians is like gravy to Americans and everyone’s taste buds run different.  You know, some like it lumpy, others don’t.  Some like it dark while others prefer it light.  Salt, no salt…  Which pretty much sums up tomato sauce.  Fiddle with the recipe until you tweak it just right to suit YOUR family and call it a day.

You’ll never please everyone so worry about those who matter.  Same goes for meatballs (but were not even going to GO there).  When it comes to sauce, think “taste and cling” and above all, enjoy the process. Buon Appetito!