Thursday, July 23, 2015

Recipe: Salade Nicoise: The Best Summer Salad

     I hesitate calling this a Nicoise Salad because I am not true to the standard recipe.  However, I do think that it is in the "style of Nice" which is the meaning of the word, Nicoise.  This salad, as you may have figured out, originated in Nice, France.  It was designed to be a seasonal salad with ingredients fresh from the market or from a backyard garden.  Originally, the salad contained tomatoes, anchovies, black olives, capers, and green beans.  This was seasoned with a simple dressing of olive oil, basil, garlic, parsley and mustard and topped with canned tuna.  None of the vegetables were to be cooked and of course, the best beverage to serve was a simple, light wine from Provence.  It was the essence of the Mediterranean.

    I love the idea of this salad.  A large platter of summer vegetables lightly seasoned placed in the middle of a table invites a communal atmosphere.  In addition, my favorite summer wine is a Tavel so I will use any excuse to open a bottle.  Another benefit of this salad is that it can be made ahead of time and travels well (for picnics).  However, I am not a big fan of anchovies or olives and Dear Daughter is not a big fan of canned tuna.  So over the years, I have changed my "Salad Nicoise" to better accommodate our tastes and what we have available.  The beauty of this salad is that you can add just about anything that you want to add.
     My first change centers around the ingredients.  I use cherry tomatoes, green beans, and small red potatoes.  Sometimes, I may include thin slices of red onion.  Secondly, I blanche the green beans for just a few minutes and steam the potatoes.  Finally, instead of canned tuna, I grill marinated chicken breasts and salmon.  All of the work is done several hours ahead of time and I put everything in separate ziploc bags and chill in the refrigerator until just before serving.  To the bags of tomatoes, beans and potatoes, I add just a bit of the dressing to coat.  Then I take a large platter and place the potatoes in the center.  I arrange a mound of green beans on one side of the potatoes and then the tomatoes on the other side.  Next, comes the proteins...slices of grilled chicken and flaked salmon.  Finally (and I almost forgot), I add a ring of hardboiled potatoes that have been sliced in half.  I usually keep the dressing in a small container and let everyone use to their liking.  Alfresco dining is a must along with a baguette and a nice bottle of wine.  If you listen, I think you will hear the sea and drift off into parts unknown.

My Nicoise Salad

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Della Terra Italian Bistro, Zelienople: An Unlikely Location for a Great Meal

     Five miles down the road, in my humble opinion, is a perfect example of a small American town.  Driving down Main Street, you will not find a Home Depot or a Lowe's.  There is no Pizza Hut or a Starbucks.  There is Rich, the 84 year old barber who cuts Dear Husband's hair.  There is Zach and his wife, who have opened a small brewpub.    A block or so away is the American Legion, where upon entering, you are immediately welcomed.  On subsequent treelined streets, you will find children who still play outside, neighbors walking dogs or strolling into town for a bite to eat.  In the four months since we moved to the area, the town has had three festivals.  For the 4th of July, donation cans are placed around town so that members of the community could donate to the Fireworks fund and each year, the organizers find a donation of a gold coin, which ends up funding most of the cost.  The annual parade was almost two hours in length this year and I think that every firetruck within a twenty mile radius participated.  The community park was transformed into a gigantic picnic with duck races in the community pool and the local philharmonic orchestra provided the necessary 1812 Overture.  In this small town of under 4,000 residents, there is a very strong sense of community.  Needless to say, our travels take us in that direction more often than not.
     Across the creek and outside of town lies a very unassuming strip mall housing the local Sears.  I had read that there was also a great Italian restaurant in this unlikely location.  As we continue to explore the area, we decided to give this place a try.  On a Tuesday evening, it was relatively quiet and for us, that was a good thing.  More and more, the noise levels of restaurants interfere with my dining experience.  Ugh...I am getting old.
     We learn from the friendly waiter that Della Terra means "Of the Earth."  I overhear him tell a neighboring table that they make nearly everything in-house and most of the ingredients are locally sourced.  Good sign.  The interior is homey without being cluttered.  A long bar secures one wall with seating for about ten.  Square tables complete the room.  In the corner near the kitchen is a huge pizza oven, which I secretly wish belonged to me.  (Of course, where would I put it?)  The menu is short, which, to me, is also another good sign.  There is a nice selection of Italian wines by the glass or bottle.  We settle in feeling the blush of a good meal about to arrive.
     There is an option to have a three, four or five course meal.  It is tempting but none of us want that much food.  We settle on a shared appetizer, a pizza that Dear Husband and I will share and a pasta dish for Dear Daughter.  Now, it is time to admit, that pizza is one of my favorite foods.  I even love it the next day for breakfast.  Before living in Europe, I made some pretty decent pizzas but I have lost my mojo.  We rarely go out for pizza and I now rarely make I rarely get to eat pizza.  Here was my chance.
     In most places in Europe, pizza comes in one size - basically for one person.  That isn't to say that they are small.  I actually think that one pizza could feed two people, which is what we normally ordered.  In Europe as well, the pizza arrives on a large plate, unsliced.  The diner uses a fork and knife and does not pick up the pizza with their hands.  If you watch anyone in my family eat pizza, they do it the same way.
     Our appetizer arrives - three Arancini balls dusted with Parmesan cheese.  Arancini are basically fried risotto balls and these were delicious.  Crunchy on the outside with creamy risotto on the inside.  The dusting of Parmesan added another texture and flavor.  Dear Husband and I split the Pizza di Parma.  If I ordered pizza in Europe, this is the one I ordered.  If I make pizza at home, this is the one I make.  On the dough, prosciutto di Parma is scattered over mozzarella and then cooked.  Just before it hits the table, baby arugula and shavings of grand padana are generously added to the pie with a little olive oil.  I love the flavors of the peppery arugula mixed with the cheeses and prosciutto and this pizza did not disappoint.  Dear Daughter discovered gnocchi in Rome so she was thrilled to see it on the menu.  It was a delicate ricotta gnocchi with cream, poppyseed, prosciutto and fava beans.  Dear Husband and I were able to get one bite each before it disappeared.
     I learn that the chef is a native of the greater metropolitan area and has worked at some well known restaurants in the city.  Five years ago, he decided that he wanted to open up a gourmet burger place, where the meat would be locally sourced.  He landed in this small town because of its proximity to the producers and farmers.  After much praise over the burger place, he opened Della Terra next door focusing on seasonal pasta and handmade pizzas and sauces.  We are glad that he did
     Our bag of veggies from our CSA shipment this week was heavy with vegetables:  new red potatoes, green beans, green peppers, cilantro, cucumbers, kale and spaghetti squash!  With the hot and humid weather, the cilantro will be great is some cool Vietnamese spring rolls.  The cucumbers will be mixed together with some watermelon, red onion and feta cheese for a refreshing salad.  I have to think a bit about the kale and squash.  I have made one kale dish thus far and will want to try a new one.  There is no rush on the squash so I will wait for the weather to break a bit before roasting it.  As for the potatoes and green beans...they will be the stars of my favorite summer salad.   I will tell you all about it on Thursday.


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Thursday, July 16, 2015

Cream of Cauliflower Soup


 I realize that making a soup in July may not be the most appetizing meal.  However, I thought that my first foray into consuming cauliflower should be something that would be comforting regardless of the weather.  Even if the ingredients included "the" vegetable, it also included yummy things such as butter and cream.
     This is fantastic and I think it would go very well not only in winter but in summer.  I did not think that the soup had to be served steaming hot.  That being said, I would not serve it cold - but lukewarm is ok.  The consistency is creamy, the flavor of the soup is subtle and the addition of the chorizo breadcrumbs brings a bit of spice and crunch.
     However, before I give you the recipe, let me rant for just a moment.  When did we turn into a society that must utter the word "like" fifteen times in one sentence.  I was listening to a podcast this afternoon as I was making the soup and I found myself counting how many times the moderator said the word "like" rather than listening to the actual content of the show.  It was "like" the time when you "like" ate the tomato and it "liked"... Good grief, is there no other word?  I do not know the reason for it but honestly, in my opinion, it makes the most intelligent of people sound ignorant.  Listen to ourselves!  (As I write this, I know I will be listening to myself tonight...and counting.)
     Anyway, back to the soup, which is much more important.  Keep this one in your back pocket - lovely first course, lovely light lunch with a salad and super, super easy.  Most of the items you will have in your pantry except perhaps the chorizo (unless you are me...and you have a freezer full of all sorts of goodies).  No joke...take a look at my inventory list which I keep on a wall painted with chalkboard paint in my garage.  It is a bit out of control...but so much fun!

    Yes, yes...the soup.

Cauliflower Soup with Crispy Chorizo Bread Crumbs
Adapted from Food and Wine

Monday, July 13, 2015

Italy: San Daniele del Friuli

     We arrived very late on a Thursday evening and were lucky that the gate guards were still manning the office.  We checked in and after a short drive around the compound, we found ourselves looking into a guest room that made an old college dormitory room look like luxury accomodations.  We were in Northern Italy for a swim meet and while the pool facility was spectacular, our living arrangements were, frankly, horrid.  We had arrived in advance of the swim meet and we knew that we definitely needed to have some sort of sightseeing plan.  There was no need to stay around the compound, even if it was located on the Adriatic.  
     Armed with several options provided by the father of Dear Daughter's best friend who was from the region, we headed out after a breakfast of stale bread and cold coffee.  The first city was just that...a city with little charm and no reason to stay.  We considered backtracking and heading to Venice, which was only 45 minutes away but we had already been there, done that...twice.  Nearing eleven o'clock and with stomachs grumbling, we started in the direction of San Daniele del Friuli.  Perhaps, it would be a smaller village and would provide some sort of decent lunch options.  
     We hit the mother-load.  San Daniele del Friuli is the home of Prosciutto San Daniele.  Now, I had heard of Prosciutto di Parma but I had never heard of Prosciutto San Daniele.  However, in my mind, cured ham was cured ham.  We were about to get a huge education not to mention a lunch worth remembering.
     Prosciutto San Daniele has a Protected Designation of Origin or PDO.  Extremely important in Italy, it means that specific requirements and regulations are in place.  The pigs have to be born and bred in one of 10 regions of Italy.  There is no freezing of the meat and contains no additives or preservatives.  The hams must be cured in sea salt and left for at least 13 months to mature.  The farms are regularly inspected and even the pigs' diets are dictated by the Production Specifications of Prosciutto di San Daniele.    The Consortium seal is branded into the meat along with an ID code, which identifies the farm where the pig was raised, the month of the pig's birth and start date of the pig's processing.  
     What makes Prosciutto San Daniele different that Prosciutto di Parma?  Prosciutto San Daniele has the trotter still attached - which is the foot of the pig.  The producers believe that this enhances the maturation process and the foot is frequently cut off to make a good soup base.  Its lower salt content makes the ham sweeter with a more delicate flavor.  Finally, the town's location provides a unique microclimate for curing with winds coming from the Alps in the north to mingle with the sea breezes of the Adriatic coming from the south.
      Prosciutto making has been occurring around this villages for thousands of years.  The Celts first brought the process of curing meats with salts to the region.  Taxes were frequently paid with prosciutto and it is said that Napoleon retreated to France with 2,000 hams. Even today, doctors frequently prescribe it as a good source of protein.
     So here, we are in prosciutto heaven.  Every restaurant in town boasts prosciutto. How do we pick a place?  Easy - the one closest to our car park.  L'Osteria is right across the street from our parking lot and on the edge of the village.  Upon entering, we are immediately in a small bar area.  It is still a bit too early for lunch so we sit at the bar and order glasses of white wine.  The bar area has seating for ten or so people and even now, there are three or four older gentlemen are drinking coffees or small glasses of wine.  We see the first diners enter about 15 minutes after our arrival.  We watch them with great interest as they speak to the waitress and a bevy of dishes begin to arrive.
     Without much thought, we realize that we are destined for lunch here.  We speak no Italian but through hand signals we are guided to a small table in the middle of the room.  We never received a menu but that was not a problem.  We pointed to our neighbors' table as if to say, "We will have what they are having."  Moments later the train of dishes started to appear.  First, a plate of sliced Italian bread heaping with lardo drizzled with a balsamic glaze.  Yes, you have guessed it...lardo is pork fat that has been cured with salt and spices and before you turn your nose up at is amazing!  Then a large plate of freshly sliced Prosciutto San Daniele came accompanied by smaller plates of mozzarella, local cheeses, balsamic marinated pearl onions, peppers, Italian bread and breadsticks.  Given my love of picnics, this was the best indoor picnic - EVER!
Luscious Lardo!

     The town isn't too bad either; small and quiet with wonderful old chapels containing ancient frescos and prosciutto shops on every corner.  I managed to bring a kilo back to Belgium with me and we munched on it for weeks.  Even now, the memory brings a smile to all of us.  Upon arrival in the States, we wondered if we would ever find Prosciutto San Daniele here or lardo.  In Berlin, we all were giddy when we found lardo at the KaDeWe and I have to say, it managed to come home with us.  Back in Pittsburgh, we were thrilled to see Prosciutto San Daniele for sale at our favorite Italian Market.  With each visit, at least a pound comes home with us.  Even last night after a weekend of swim meets, we gathered around the kitchen table and recreated the meal.  It was delicious.
Plates of beautiful mozzarella and freshly sliced Prosciutto San Daniele

Marinated onions

     So imagine my surprise today, when after doing a bit a research, I learned that the Prosciutto San Daniele that we buy here is not the same Prosciutto San Daniele that we bought there.  Oh, it still comes from pigs from one of the 10 regions or Italy.  It even is made by the some of the same producers.  However, in the United States, the foot is not allowed to be attached - so the trotter is cut off before shipping.  I can deal with that but more importantly; however, is that there is a bacteria that is in the ham...very small traces...which is not allowed in the United States.  The hams bound for the US cannot come into contact with the hams bound for Italy and the rest of Europe (or the world).  Europe allows 100 units per gram of the bacteria, which is slight.  The US allows 0.  Given all of the stringent regulations placed on the Italian producers, I think we are lucky that any of this delicacy even makes it into the US.  
     Now, I wish that I had never learned this fact.  I would have been blissfully happy going on throughout my life thinking that I was eating the exact same ham as I did in Italy.  However, the bottom line is:  Do I like what I can get here?  The answer is definitely YES and the memory of that wonderful lunch will be remembered with each future bite.
     Now to Clarion River Organics and our shipment of last week:  Much of what we received requires no or little cooking:  a head of red lettuce, a small batch of carrots, sprigs of dill and five ears of sweet corn.  I haven't been able to cook with the peas that we have received for two consecutive weeks because Dear Daughter will eat them all - raw.  For the B and C (broccoli and cauliflower), I will take the advice of a friend and make soups.  I am actually eager about the Cauliflower Soup with Chorizo Breadcrumbs ,which I will make tomorrow night.  If it good, I will share it with you later in the week.
     Even with the CSA, I could not pass up the opportunity to do a bit of farming.  Take a look at this!

One Zucchini and One Cucumber Plant!


Friday, July 10, 2015

OMG - Broccoli and Cauliflower

     I just received my weekly newsletter from my CSA.  It is a wonderful resource and tells me not  only what to expect in my shipment but gives me creative recipes to make with my stash of veggies.

     But I am getting both broccoli and cauliflower tomorrow!   Yikes!  What should I do?  I know that I talk a lot about how much I hate peas...but I like (not love) fresh peas.  I really cannot think of anything good about the b & c.  Research will begin tomorrow...please send me good ideas!

     Oh...the stress!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Kale with Sausage and White Beans

     I had to send some very important documents to France today related to the sale of our apartment. These documents not only had to be translated from French to English but our signatures notarized and the documents sent to the Pennsylvania Department of State to be legalized.  I received them back this morning and immediately left the house to have them mailed to France.  Dear Daughter tagged along as she wanted to make a stop and after contemplating the best place to mail the documents, I decided to forego FEDEX and opted for the UPS Store as it was closer.  The clerk took my envelope and placed it on the scale while he entered the details into the computer.  A hassled looking woman entered carrying at least 100 envelopes and dumped them next to scale.  A few minutes later, the clerk looked very confused.  As he printed the shipment label, he realized that my envelope was no longer on the scale.  The woman, it seems, picked up my envelope with several others of hers that were not labeled and left!  On top of that, the return address on her envelopes listed a company located in Virginia.  There was no further contact information.  The clerk explained to me, "Don't worry, she comes in here often.  Next time she comes in, we will see if we can get the envelope back."  Seriously!  
     As calmly as I could, I explained that these were time sensitive documents and I needed them back TODAY.  I would wait while they tried to track down the company, which was somewhat difficult to do.  I figured that if I just stood there, they could not forget about me.  Ninety minutes later, I was still standing there.  I will admit that the clerk, in between helping customers, was trying to be helpful and was very apologetic.  The manager was a different story.  Only after an hour of waiting did she acknowledge my presence and then only by saying, "Can you believe that lady took your envelope?"  I could not speak as I knew that nothing good would come out of my mouth.  If you can't say anything nice...
     After ninety minutes, I realized that it was a lost cause.  I explained the urgency of the papers and indicated that I would have to initiate the process all over again and I was not sure of the ramifications.  Would I lose the transaction?  Shortly after leaving, I received a call from the clerk indicating that he had "found" the individual and she would return the envelope before the last pickup.  We shall see...
     It is Thursday and I am looking forward to tomorrow.  We have scheduled lunch in the city with Dear Husband and then DD and I will take in a four painting Van Gogh exhibit that we have been wanting to see.  In our very cool market district, referred to as the Strip District, I plan to visit the fishmonger and pick out a live trout for him to filet for us.  After that, we will hit the Italian grocery, where we will pour the olive oil of our choice into our empty wine bottles and perhaps get some special cheese for the weekend.  We will top off the day by picking up our CSA shipment which will also include three roasting chickens and our first shipment of pork.  While last weekend's porterhouse steaks were perhaps the best I have ever had, I am looking forward to something other than beef or lamb.
      The veggies from last week's shipment are gone!  I am at a bit of a loss for what to accompany our lamb meatballs tonight but I will figure out something.  Last week, I gathered the courage to cook up the kale.  This recipe was a great introduction to the veggie - quite easy and very flavorful - not to mention super good for you!  We had no leftovers, which says it all.

Kale with Sausage and White Beans
(adapted from....I cannot remember where I first saw this recipe!)

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Germany: Restaurant Vau in Berlin and Recipe: Squash Blossom Quesadilla

Restaurant Vau - Berlin

     I knew that the only activity we could muster enough energy to accomplish was a nice, leisurely lunch.  We had arrived in Berlin hours earlier and none of us had slept that evening on the flight.  We needed a good, multi course lunch that would relax us and set the stage for our week long adventure in the city.  After much research, I secured reservations at Restaurant Vau - a Michelin starred eatery located in the heart of the Gendarmenmarkt neighborhood of central Berlin.  
     Bleary-eyed and casually dressed, we entered a serene courtyard.  The main dining room was off to our left but it was completely empty.  I could understand the reason.  It was a beautiful day and the relaxing atmosphere of the courtyard would definitely enhance the meal.  The waiters were a bit standoffish but we pushed that aside as we opened our menus.  The lunch menu consisted of twelve items; three of which were desserts.  At first glance, it was impossible to determine if the other nine items were appetizers or main courses. They were neither or they were both; it was up to your interpretation.  Here is how it worked.  You could order one course only, or two courses or three courses...or as many as you liked.  If you only wanted the desserts, order the desserts.  If you wanted an all beef lunch, then order as many of the beef offerings.
    We settled on three courses each and no one ordered the same offering.  Sipping excellent German wines, a "waiter" appeared with our first course, set them down on the table and began to explain each dish.  Very quickly, he realized that we did not understand his rapid fire German.  He pulled back the plates and for a brief second we all looked at each other and wondered if they were going to disappear.  Thankfully, he placed them back on the table and this time, explained to us in perfect English the composition of each dish.  Dear Daughter has the shrimp salad with radish carpaccio.  Dear Husband has chosen the house-smoked ham with cabbage and I could not resist buffalo ricotta with a carrot salad.  One bite and we all forgot that we are sleep deprived.  One bite and we all smile.  "It is amazing how good food can make you feel so good," quips my foodie daughter.
     Before we could finish the first course, the second course arrived.  Yikes, we are not ready.  We are still savoring the last flavors on each dish.  Our English speaking waiter looks visibly embarrassed and quickly turns around, taking the plates back into the kitchen.  He comes back out to our table and explains that normally businessmen dine here for lunch and it has to be quick.  He further tells us as he pours us each a second glass of wine that he is always telling his cooks to move faster during the lunch hour.  It then dawns on us that this is not the waiter; this is the chef!
Roasted Cod with Krautfleckerln

Beef with Green Asparagus and Fondant Potatoes

Tagliatelle with Oxtail Ragout and Arugula

     The second course was as good as the first.  My oxtail ragu had an incredible depth of flavor.  Dear Daughter had opted for the cod with kraut and noodles and the combination of textures and flavors was unlike anything we have ever had.   Even Dear Husband's relatively benign dish of beef with asparagus and potatoes was prepared with amazing creativity and flawless execution.  We all felt that it was one of the best meals we had ever had.  It was that good.
     The courtyard was thinning out as we were finishing our third course, each opting for a dessert.  The chef stops by the table and spends about ten minutes talking to us about Berlin and asking us questions.  When he learns that we are from Pennsylvania, he excitedly tells us of a trip he is taking the next week to Nazareth, PA.  Question:  Why would  a Michelin-starred chef be going to Nazareth?   Answer:  He is going with a group of other chefs, first to New York to see the food scene but then to Nazareth to buy a guitar.  Evidently, he cooks and he plays in a band.  Who knew? Upon learning that we have rented an apartment in Berlin for the week, he wants to know why we would not stay in a hotel.  I explain to him that we like to cook and hope to find some interesting markets.  With great enthusiasm, he proclaims that the best market in all of Berlin is just down the street from our apartment.   "I love to go there with my fiancĂ© on Saturday mornings.  We buy lots of food and then go to my favorite wine bar.  Then I have to go to work.  But on Sunday, I cook...for myself."
     Dear Daughter was right.  A good meal does make you feel amazing.  I later find out that our chef, Kolja Kleeberg is a bit of a celebrity in Germany.  Dear Husband laughs at the irony.  I finally get the chance to speak to a great chef and I didn't even know he was a great chef! I do now.

     Back at home, I was giddy as I received this week's CSA shipment (from Clarion River Organics):  green onions, red beets, several small zucchini,  a bag of pea shoots, a small batch of peas, swiss chard and squash blossoms!  I love squash blossoms and knew immediately that dinner plans would have to change.  This was a great opportunity to make Squash Blossom Quesadillas, a super simple dish that just makes sense and is festive.  Enjoy!

Squash Blossom Quesadilla

Squash Blossom Quesadilla

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Cool and Crisp Fennel Apple Salad

     If you have heard this story before, my apologies.  Not so long ago, a good friend of mine asked my daughter about what she had done over a recent school holiday.  Expecting to hear all about recent visits to ancient sites or museums, she was a bit surprised when Dear Daughter rattled on and on about the various restaurants she had been to over the course of a week.  In great detail, she provided examples of her new favorite foods or meals.  My friend, who was also one of DD's teachers, rolled her eyes, sighed and said, "Yes, your parents are raising a foodie."
     That is a pretty correct statement.  She is a foodie.  Here is a kid who will not eat hotdogs or sandwiches but will devour bratwurst on a brotchen (and only a brotchen).  She won't touch scrambled eggs but loves quiche.  What did she want for her 13th birthday?  She wanted to have dinner at her favorite fancy restaurants...yes, that is plural.  She had at least three fancy meals with  each restaurant providing their own little "bon anniversaire" gifts to her.  At her final birthday lunch, the Mexican Ambassador to France even took part in singing Happy Birthday to her.  What a charmed life she leads!
     However, as much as she loves to eat good food, she is not much of a cook.  She is beginning to develop a small repertoir.  Her current masterpieces center around either potatoes or rice. She makes a mean Au Gratin Potato, Potatoes Dauphinois and even fancy Mashed Potatoes.  However, in the last six months, she has taken over the duties of "Risotto Maker".  Shrimp Risotto, Butternut Squash Risotto, Risotto Milanese are all fine examples of her work.  Before you get ideas that we may want to send her off to culinary school, I have to make you aware of one important item.  She is the Head Chef...never the Sous Chef, never the Prep Cook and never the humble Dishwasher.  Whether she is afraid of dismembering herself with a knife, burning her fingers in the oven or dropping a slippery dish, we do not know.  Perhaps, these plebeian jobs are just not creative enough for her. 
      Whatever the reason may be, I sat back last night and watched her and Dear Husband create my 50th birthday dinner.  DD had decided on Risotto with Bacon and Mushrooms.  I was a bit dubious about the choice and did not remind her that I was not a big fan of mushrooms (as I was not supposed to know the menu).  DH prepped and cleaned and DD stirred that risotto, taking little bites here and there only to tell DH that it was still not quite done.  The result:  perfectly cooked rice with an unbelievable depth of flavor and a wonderful memory.  Goodbye 49 - Hello 50.

That's my beautiful girl!

Best Birthday Dinner, ever

     We have done exceptionally well with our veggies this week.  Most nights, veggies take center stage with just a bit of protein.  Isn't that the way it is supposed to be?  We used up the zucchini by making Zucchini Fritters to accompany our marinated Sirloin Steak over the weekend.  Quinoa Asian Slaw made good use of the cabbage.  Now that we are in Pittsburgh, I made and froze stuffed cabbage yesterday.  I feel like a good Yunzer now!   Tonight, we will be tested with Kale with Sausage and White Beans.  I hope everyone is hungry.
     I have never made anything with fennel before and settled on this easy salad.  It is wonderfully crisp and goes quite well this time of year.  We paired it grilled chicken breast...light, easy and delicious.

Just right for summer...Fennel Apple Salad

Fennel Apple Salad
(I think I found this recipe through our CSA, Clarion River Organics)