Yummy in the tummy with both Julia and Julie!

“People who love to eat are always the best people.”
Julia Child

“With enough butter, anything is good.”
Julia Child

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Who doesn’t love a woman wearing a grin from ear to ear, while raising a mallet high over head, ready to smash some unsuspecting something to bits?
“How ’bout dinner in half a minute?”
What a marvelous concept!
Only Julia could give us a complete satisfying meal in under a minute or an elaborate labor intensive 3 day arduous Beef Bourguignon.

Pity being this is not the day to extoll the virtues of Julia, although we probably should, yet fear not for I have done so on numerous occasions in numerous posts prior. . . and most likely will do so again. . .
Today however is a day to hail the often maligned omelet. An amalgamation of egg, a touch of water, a sprinkling of salt and pepper, a dab of butter, a bit of heat and you suddenly have a mix of warm, soft, light, airy, nourishing, wonderment. . .the epitome of the blank canvas.

There are those days when you just want, gotta have, something warm and soothing. . .something that envelopes you from tastebud to tummy. Be it a comforting, yet quick, breakfast or a light little brunch, an elegant lunch, a quick supper on the fly or even a lucious late night snack– an egg transformed can provide all of that and then some.

On a trip to my mecca, aka William Sonoma, a couple of years ago, I saw the most intriguing little pan.
A rolled omelet pan.
Ooooooo. . .
A sucker for any little boost in the kitchen, I made the purchase.

Which brings us today. . .
I’d like to share with you how this fun little pan, coupled with a few simple ingredients, can create a satisfying delight which can be happily turned out in less then a minute. And remember that an omelet is a “vessel” for all sorts of goodies, be it chopped ham, chopped bacon, chopped peppers, onions, spinach, tiny shrimp, crab—the sky’s the limit

For all practical teaching purposes, we’ll keep things simple and make a humble soul satisfying cheese omelet. . .

I highly recommend this particular pan but you may certainly use a round small sauté pan, however you just won’t have the fun little rolled variety of omelet but rather the folded variety which for some odd reason is just not nearly as fun or easy to make, nor will it be as tasty. . .

You’ll need:
2 eggs
a touch of butter or PAM
a sprinkle of salt and pepper
a few slices of a nice cheddar cheese
a touch of water.

Place the pan on the eye of your stove over medium heat. Despite being a rectangle pan on a round eye, trust me, magic will happen. Put in a dollop of butter ( 1/2 tablespoon) and heat until sizzling.

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Meanwhile in a bowl (a fun little bowl I made years ago when I was in the classroom) crack two eggs, add a splash of water ( 1 Tbl) and whip up until light and frothy–notice the honey wand I’m using to mix the eggs. . .made by our own little Michael over on http://michaelswoodcraft.wordpress.com

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Next pour the egg into one of the wells of the pan.

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Continue heating, slightly tilting the pan, allowing some of the egg mixture to pour into the other well. . .

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Continue tilting back and forth as the egg begins to “set up”
At this point lay your slices of cheese on top of the egg, on either side of the well.
I’m using a lovely double decker cheese, a two tone of Red Leicester and creamy Double Gloucester.

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(image taken from the Londoner Dairy cheese site–I found the cheese at my local Publix)

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Now take the nice little spatula that was included with the pan, gently pulling and pushing one end of the omelet, rolling it toward the other end.

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and Voila—the whole process takes maybe 4 minutes, from prep to plate

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I’ve included a YouTube link to the omelet episode for the TV series of The French Chef

Bon Appétit

Zut alors, zoodles!

Zucchinis terrific!
Like bunnies, prolific!

– Author Unknown

Last night we had three small zucchini for dinner that were grown within fifty feet of our back door. I estimate they cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $371.49 each.
– Andy Rooney

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(the latest day’s gathering / Julie Cook / 2014)

Zut Alors!!
As in holy cow!!
As in, they just keep coming and coming. . .
And just when you thought you had had one zucchini boat too many,
one fried zucchini too many,
one helping of zucchini casserole way too many. . .

Enter the Zoodle.

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What? you exclaim, as in you think I’ve merely spelled something wrong?! And whereas I would agree with you on my lack of spelling, rest assured, you have read correctly.

Zoodle.

A zoodle is Mother Nature’s pasta. Yet in order to create this small wonder, it helps to have a little kitchen tool known as a Paderno Spiralizer. Or something similar.
Oooooo a spriralizer.
Sounds rather nice rolling off the ol tongue doesn’t it?

When I saw this little bad boy in my William Sonoma catalog (http://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/paderno-sprializer/?cm_src=AutoCatRel), I knew immediately I wanted to try my hand at that.

I love pasta.
I Adore pasta. . .as in I’ve got it so bad that I order all of my pasta from Italy.
Yes, I’ve got it that bad. A sad little addiction really—me and pasta. . .
It all goes back to the adoption and to my being Sophia Loren’s love child, but just don’t tell Ms Loren about that, she doesn’t know. It’s just our little secret. . .yours and mine.
And may I add just how stunning she’s looking as she’s knocking on the door of 80!

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We have good genes, she and I. . .but may I add that I tend to wear my dresses just a tad bit higher on the front, but I digress. . .back to the spiralizer.

A love of pasta is not exactly the best thing for one’s weight, health, IBS, gluten intolerance, diabetes, hyperglycemia, etc. . .not something you need to consume on a daily basis—and believe me, if I could, I certainly would.

With a plethora of zucchini from the garden, coupled by a need to mix things up a bit with the pasta consumption. . .enter the spiralizer.

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It comes with 3 types of blades but I prefer the one that spiralizers things–of course! It is simply too cool. Super easy to use and clean—it’s a no brainer.

At first I simply pan sautéed the zucchini spirals with a little olive oil and onions and served as a side dish accompanied by a healthy grating of parmesan cheese (the real deal mind you, none of that powdered mess in a jar). I had to break my husband in slowly and gently. He’s a plain food kind of guy. Nothing fancy smancy for him, which cuts way back on the fun in the kitchen to be sure.

As he liked his sautéed zoodles, I decided I could now go all the way with creativity and use my zoodles as a replacement for spaghetti. Daring and racy I know, but it’s good to mix things up every once in a while, trust me.

After zoodling the zucchini, I poured a little olive oil in a large skillet. Now I prefer to have mine slightly cooked but you may certainly prepare this using the zoodles raw–which may give new meaning to “al dente.” Once the oil sizzled, I dropped in my zoodles, stirring a bit, getting a nice overall sauté. Here, however is the tricky area. If you cook them too long, they extrude lots of liquid, turning mushy—something very undesirable when serving pasta—or in our case, fake pasta.

Once I sautéed the zucchini / zoodles, I emptied the zoodles into a colander, allowing for excess liquid to drain away.

May it be known that I make my own spaghetti sauce—but we’ll save that recipe for when the tomatoes all start to come in, for now we’ll just stick with the basics of the zoodles.

The sauce I’m using here is an Italian Sausage based sauce with veal meatballs. Of course you can go vegan all the way with the zoodles if you prefer, but as I’ve told you before–my husband’s palate is old school southern—a real meat and potato sort of guy—I’ve got to appease him to some degree. Meat sauce it is!

Using tongs I put the zoodles on a plate and grated a little parmesan cheese on top in order to coat the zoodles a bit, giving them a little umph and holding power for the sauce. I next ladled the sauce, placing a couple of meatballs on top and added a nice grating of Parmesan cheese as well as some crumbled feta and —Voila
Really nice, a bit more healthy, sneaking in another serving of vegetables, a win win to be sure.
Buon Appetito!!

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and what does one do with all of that thyme on one’s hands…

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saute fresh chopped/ sliced white button mushrooms in a little olive oil and butter. Add fresh ground pepper, a glug of red wine, a couple of dashes of Worcestershire, a little beef broth, a spoonful of William Sonoma beef demi glace, garlic powder, a dash of sea salt…and a generous handful of chopped herbs–thyme, chives, rosemary…..
serve over the sauteed cubed sirloins from the locally sourced cow….bon appetite

Feast and Fellowship

I confess. I love to eat. Let me clarify. I love to eat good food. I enjoy eating said good food, surrounded by those I care about, those who are family and or friends, or simply those who equally enjoy good food and good company. Maybe it’s a quiet evening at home with a well planned out home cooked meal. Maybe it’s a festive time out at a Michelin Five star restaurant. Maybe it’s an unctuous cup of Gelato enjoyed on a street corner in Italy on a hot summer day—good food is often the highlight of the day no matter where or when it is enjoyed. And yes, the blessing of being able to have food, good or bad, is a graciousness that does not go unnoticed. As gratefulness and thankfulness abound.

I put as much planning into where to eat during a travel trip as I do to which hotel I choose for a stay. Often times the well-laid plans of mice and this woman will fall away to a need for spontaneity, leaving way to finding a special place for a special meal on a wing and a prayer. Almost always experienced with memorable results.

I’m reminded of the most delightful little restaurant in Florence. My dear friends the Papinis, who run a very old Florentine leather business (http://papinileather.com/), suggested a very small restaurant just around the corner from their business. My aunt and I wandered in, or I should say down, into a tiny dinning room of an ancient building in an alleyway just off of the small Piazza del Pesce right by the Ponte Vecchio. Realizing that, due to the small dinning room, reservations were a must, as the restaurant’s popularity with locals and tourists alike was abounding—we made reservations for later that evening.

By the time of our reservations, the small dinning room was filling quickly. A husband and wife team, along with a small array of cooks and waiters, ran the restaurant. There was a group of raucous ladies from Texas sitting at a table across from us. A quiet couple form Spain sat next to us. I tend to lean towards Pappadelle with boar sauce as a main course when in Florence, so this particular evening was to be no different. I’m not certain as to why that is—I just find it indulgent as well as most satisfying.

The highlight, however, was the plate of fried squash blossoms. Light and delectable. Reminiscent of fried okra (a “southern thang”). They were so divine that we ordered one more plate prior to ordering desert. There was good reason as to why I ate a bottle of Tums before going to bed that evening as I have never been so “stuffed”…. just thinking about it makes me smile, as well as a little queasy…

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And then there is the velvety smooth warm tomato flan I had in Cortona, Italy. Cortona is home to the University of Georgia’s Visual Arts summer abroad program. It is also home to Frances Mayes’ Under the Tuscan Sun fame. Cortona is a quaint and ancient hilltop medieval town in southern Tuscany.

Perched atop the main piazza in town sits a small yet delightful restaurant, La Grotta. My aunt and I had a table sitting along the ledge overlooking the Piazza della Republica, which is the location for our friend Marco Molesini’s wine shop. His family runs a deli/grocery store and he runs the wine shop—shipping wines, vinegars, olive oils, cheese and meats all the world over (http://www.molesini-market.com/). Much to my surprise when I walked into his shop, he was sporting a Georgia Bulldog T shirt—seems Marco attended the University of Georgia and is an official Bulldog just like me—an instant friend bound by the Dawgs found an ocean away!

It is here that on a warm summer’s evening one my sip fruity Tuscan Chianti wines while watching the swallows (chimney swifts) darting about the courtyard like Japanese zeros honing in on an unforeseen target. The peace that settles in over this small town is heavenly. Families, with their young children in tow, gathered below us, meeting together before deciding where to head off for a fine meal. I was completely content in this moment.

I had ordered the tomato flan and my aunt the Burschetta. Both prepared with the freshest vine ripened tomatoes, freshly picked aromatic basil and the peppery local olive oil that Tuscany is so famous for.
Not only were they both strikingly vibrant with vivid color stimulants for the eye, the taste buds were equally rewarded with the bursts of fresh flavor. The flan arrived in a small dish sitting is a puddle of warm basil infused olive oil. The first bite was nothing short of magical. The setting also helped add to the magically surreal moment.

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If it is a sweet one seeks, Zurich is home to Sprungli’s Chocolates/Café (Lindt Chocolates). It was here, this past September, while on the “Great Retirement Adventure”, that my aunt, my friend Melissa and I all found out what chocolate is truly all about.

We had just arrived in town after a long overnight flight. It was still early morning and we were hungry. Who says you can’t eat chocolate for breakfast? Of course there was coffee ordered so that may qualify our meal of Chocolate mouse cakes, our first breakfast meal in Switzerland, as acceptable. One bite of this light, tongue coating smooth concoction of cream, sugar, chocolate, vanilla–an amalgamation of goodness—one will never be the same.

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We were in Zurich for a day and a half and visited Sprunglis’ multiple times. They do offer “real” food as well, besides the myriads of pastries, pies, cakes, macrons, and chocolate, but why bother?! Oh I could go on but there will be a posting later on such treats……….

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And then there is the fellowshipping.

I have always believed in good company with a good meal. I also prefer being the one whose preparing the meal. I just feel more comfortable doing all of the work I suppose—not that I’m a martyr by any means—just enjoy cooking for those I care for, or for those I don’t really know.

All during my tenure as a teacher, it always seemed as if we were having some sort of shower or party after school celebrating something, anything. There were showers to celebrate the impending marriage of either a teacher or the grown child of a teacher. Showers for a young pregnant teacher or for the coming of a grandbaby for an older teacher.
We had “parties” for the faculty if we, as a school,were to be receiving some honor or accolade. We welcomed new administrators with cake and punch and said good-bye to our retirees with a luncheon. You name it, we gathered together to celebrate at any possible opportunity. And I was always happiest when working behind the scenes of these events.

When the time came for my own good-byes, it was to be no different. I had to be the one cooking and preparing. I told the ladies of the school that we would “feast and fellowship” at my house once school was finished for the year. Of course we had the end of year luncheon at school where I was truly humbled by the display of “good-byes”, but it was the feast and the fellowship shindig at my house, with all of the school’s ladies, that was most memorable. In order to protect the identities of all involved, I will say no more 🙂 Trust me, however, when I say that a good time was truly had by all. My salad niçoise and muddled peach juleps—marvelous…. but I digress.

A few years back, when scoping out my Bon Appetite Magazine, I always enjoyed reading the back page. On the back page, the Magazine always highlighted some famous person, always asking about their idea of a good meal, what were the 3 most important things in their refrigerator, and my most favorite question, “what 3 people from history would you invite to dinner?” I’ve always thought about this question wishing someone would ask me the same thing.

Well since you’ve asked, I’ll tell you.

I’ve thought about this question for years. At first I thought about asking some really big name world changer…. Gandhi. But then I thought better of that as he would most likely be on a hunger strike and not interested in feasting or fellowshipping. I couldn’t ask Mother Teresa as she would admonish me letting me know in no uncertain terms that I should be feeding those in need in my community rather than preparing a special meal for her (now I’m rethinking this whole idea).

There is, however one individual, who I know would not only enjoy feasting on a good meal, but he would enjoy taking center stage of conversation, taking the fellowshipping to an all time high. My hero, Sir Winston Spencer Churchill. I would also have to ask my other hero. Father Karol Wojtyla, otherwise known as Pope John Paul II. Two vastly different men but two men I would love to listen to in person, basking in the knowledge and blessing received by being in their presence.

But who will be my third dinner guest? Julia Child? No, her vivacious personality would sway all of the attention of my gentlemen guests in her direction. I would hate being jealous of Julia. What about my hero Margaret Thatcher? No. I fear she would dominate conversation with Winston regarding policies of Great Britton during both of their respective times in office leaving me to feel left out. No fun being left out at your own dinner party.

No, I won’t ask another female. I’ll be selfish. But who…. hummm…Ahhhh…what’s a fine meal without a little good French food and wine? Who would most appreciate French Food (besides Julia)? Napoleon Bonaparte—the little Corsican general and self crowned French Emperor! Who, oddly enough, I so admire. A ladies man to be sure. Charming and polite. However, upon meeting Churchill, that genteel demeanor would most quickly vanish.

Winston and Fr. Wojtyla, will no doubt, talk about the War (remember the War is always WWII). But once Napoleon shows up for the evening, Winston will be in rare form. He will parley with the “little general” taunting him with his study of Wellington and of Russia. Playing up the eventual defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo to a crushing crescendo to my dinner guest’s dismal dismay—and loving every minute of it.

But knowing Napoleon, he will not remain silent, fighting to the end. It will be at this moment that I will ask Fr. Wojtyla if he would like to leave the military campaign behind in order to depart with me to a quiet room, only to enjoy a last glass of wine and discus his latest views of the plight of man. I would sit in rapture and in awe of this bigger than life man, mystic and soon to be saint. That would be a most special evening indeed.

I cannot leave you pondering the joys (and sometimes the tragedies) of feasting and fellowshipping without leaving you something a bit tangible from today’s discourse. You must have a recipe. It is an almost fail proof recipe for a country round loaf of delightfully rustic bread. Now I have had some measured success with a recipe that included the whole yeast, rise, knead, rise some more boule type round…but to be on the safe side we’ll go with this William Sonoma choice. I usually make this for Easter as it has the light hint of Rosemary, the herb of “remembrance” and lemon, which harkens to the renewal of Spring and warmth.

No better ingredient to a true feasting of fellowship then the breaking of the bread, together. The ancient and time honored tradition of hospitality, sacrifice and everlasting Hope…

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Rosemary-Lemon No-Knead Bread
This bread is almost effortless to make because it requires no kneading. Instead, the dough is allowed to slowly rise over a long period of time. Then it is baked in a preheated covered cast-iron pot, which helps produce a crispy, bakery-style crust on the finished loaf.
Ingredients:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. active dry yeast
1 3/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
2 tsp. chopped lemon zest
Cornmeal as needed
Directions:
In a large bowl, combine the flour, yeast, salt, rosemary and zest. Add 1 5/8 cups water and stir until blended; the dough will be shaggy and very sticky. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough rest at warm room temperature (about 70°F) until the surface is dotted with bubbles, 12 to 18 hours.

Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface. Sprinkle the dough with a little flour and fold the dough over onto itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest for 15 minutes.

Using just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to the work surface or your fingers, gently and quickly shape the dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel, preferably a flour sack towel (not terry cloth), with cornmeal. Put the dough, seam side down, on the towel and dust with more flour or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise until the dough is more than double in size and does not readily spring back when poked with a finger, about 2 hours.

At least 30 minutes before the dough is ready, put a 2 3/4-quart cast-iron pot in the oven and preheat the oven to 450°F.

Carefully remove the pot from the oven. Slide your hand under the towel and turn the dough over, seam side up, into the pot; it may look like a mess, but that is OK. Shake the pan once or twice if the dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with the lid and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and continue baking until the loaf is browned, 15 to 30 minutes more.

Transfer the pot to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes. Using oven mitts, turn the pot on its side and gently turn the bread; it will release easily. Makes one 1 1/2-lb. loaf.

Adapted from Sullivan Street Bakery (New York City) and Mark Bittman, "The Secret of Great Bread: Let Time Do the Work," The New York Times, Nov. 8, 2006.