Monday, February 8, 2016

Doppler



  We were predicted to get some snow last Thursday night.  How much was anyone's guess since those poor Boston weathermen can never get their forecast right when it comes to Cape Cod.  For a previous snow storm, they said we would get a possible 4"-8". We ended up with 15".  Go figure.
 Val is out in CA visiting the little Hardings otherwise I would ask for her prediction.  Anytime of year, summer hurricane to winter blizzard, hers is always spot on.  From years of listening to local radio broadcasts and watching the Providence, RI news station, she has honed her skills for combining all the information: direction of the wind, tides and temperature.  She has been on top of whether or not we would have school in the morning, if my father would likely be called out to fix a broken pole or downed wires and most importantly, if she will have to take any precautionary measures to protect her precious garden.
   I now attempt to do the same.  Not so much for the above mentioned reasons.  I am most likely to check the wind speed and the amount of sunshine for summer beach days.  It's important to know which side of town will provide the most hospitable venue for a day by the ocean.  No one wants sand blown into their tuna sandwich at the beach. 
  So, Thursday night I was on my own.  At least now with computers and phone apps, I can study the Doppler myself (Thank you, National Weather Service!) and come to my own conclusions, which I can only hope will be close to what Val would tell me if she were here to interpret the data. But, if my predictions were off, I knew I will still be o.k.  After all, I am my father's daughter: I always have a full tank of gas in my car, a sturdy metal snow shovel, a 5 gallon bucket full of sand and salt and plenty of milk and bread.  By now, you all know I have more provisions on hand than just milk and bread. I had all my supplies for this easy tomato soup, too.  And of course, cheese and butter for grilled cheese sandwiches.
  As I write this post, the wind is howling and the snow is falling, yet again.  This time the weathermen are using nasty words like, "blizzard" and "power outage" to describe what is happening here on Cape Cod.  They think we may get 12"-18" of the white stuff before the day is over.  Of course, it would be great to be able to rely on some correct information from these paid "professionals".  But I know better and besides, I hope they are wrong, again. While I am a fan of snow days, and hunkering down with a warm bowl of soup, I would much rather keep the power on and the snow at a manageable amount, thank you.




Simple Tomato Soup
(serves 6)

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 medium sized onion, diced
salt and pepper
2  large cans whole tomatoes (28 oz. each)  I use Pastene
1 cup chicken stock
1 bunch fresh thyme (or 2 teaspoons dried)
1-2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream or whole milk
crushed red pepper
fresh herbs for garnish (parsley, thyme or chives)

Melt the olive oil and butter in a large dutch oven or stock pot on medium heat.  Add the diced onion and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Cook until onions are softened and slightly caramelized on edges.  Add the 2 cans of tomatoes, chicken stock and thyme (if fresh, tie in a bundle).  Heat through.  Mash tomatoes with a potato masher if you like chunky soup or blend with an immersion blender (you can also transfer the soup to a regular blender) for a smoother soup.  Add 1 tablespoon of sugar, taste and add more if desired.  Add the salt and pepper.  Remove the fresh thyme stems and discard.  Add cream and stir.  Heat through and serve.  If you like a bit of spice, garnish with a pinch of crushed red pepper.  Also garnish soup with any herbs you like.  I always use chives in the winter as these are my only herbs that usually survive indoors.


Our favorite accompaniment to this soup is a classic grilled cheese sandwich.  Here is how I make mine:

 Classic Grilled Cheese Sandwich
(makes 1)

2 slices Val's Farmhouse White Bread   or Pepperidge Farm brand
butter, room temperature
2 slices mozarella cheese (about 2 oz)
2 slices cheddar cheese  (about 2 oz)

Heat a griddle on medium high.  Butter both slices of bread on one side each, being careful to spread butter to the edges.  Place butter side down on griddle.  Layer cheese evenly over the slices of bread. 2 oz. on each side.  Place a domed pan cover over the slices of bread so that the cheese melts.  Check often to make sure the underside (butterside) of the bread is not burning but is turning golden brown. Once the cheese begins to melt and the butter side of the bread is golden, put the sandwich together and turn the heat to low.  Let the sandwich rest under the cover until the cheese melts a bit more.  Cut and serve immediately.
Alternately, to make numerous sandwiches, begin with oven preheated to 250 degrees.  As you make each sandwich, transfer to a cookie sheet and place in the oven to keep warm until all sandwiches are completed and ready to serve.

 



Sunday, January 31, 2016

Seeds




I bought seeds the other day.
The woman behind me in line commented, "Wow, you're hopeful."
Her tone implied that she did not approve of my purchase on such a blustery, January day.  The look on her face said, "How dare you imagine the ground thawing, daffodils blooming, while it's 15 degrees out and the wind is is so strong it makes your eyes water and your nose run?" 
To tell the truth, I set out to buy a new winter hat.  I was already tired of wearing my favorite one that does not smoosh down my hair.  It's very important to me that my hair does not get smooshed, so finding the right hat to add to my wardrobe is challenging and requires a lot of legwork.  When the wind is whipping down the back of my neck and the tips of my ears are cold because I forgot my favorite hat at home, it makes me think of looking for a hat.  It does not make me think of buying seeds to plant in the early spring. But I didn't tell her that.
I'm not sure if it is intentional that the seeds are displayed adjacent to the cold winter wear.  Probably not as this is a discount store filled with a hodge-podge of merchandise from patio chairs to bagels and bed sheets and power drills.  But upon just seeing the neatly organized shelves of small paper packages adorned with brightly colored photographs of every flower you can possibly grow in coastal New England (and at 40% off!!), how could I resist?
At first, I thought I would pick up a few packages of seeds for cold weather greens like spinach and Swiss chard, the ones I would plant right away in April.  That's reasonable, right?  But then, I decided, "No, get it ALL now."  Who knows when I will remember to come back?  Who cares what I already have at home in my seed collection stashed in an old shoe box?  So, I didn't just buy some seeds.  I bought so many seeds I could barely carry all the little packages without dropping a few every step I took as I made my way to the register.  I must have appeared deranged as I unloaded my arms and dumped packets of marigolds, lettuce, green beans, snap peas and every herb you can imagine growing onto the counter for the cashier to ring up.  I'm sure that snotty customer who stepped in line behind me thought I was as crazy as someone who buys a snow shovel during a heat wave in July.  But I really didn't care.  I just responded,
"At this price, if you don't get them now, the seeds will be gone when you're ready!"
 Who is the wacko now?



Since it's far too early to plant seeds to grow my own, I'm thankful to find beautiful bunches of Swiss chard in the supermarket at this time of year.  I like to sautee it with garlic and add a dash of balsamic vinegar.  It adds some spring time freshness and some zing to any winter dinner.




Sauteed Swiss Chard
(serves 4)

1 large bunch Swiss chard
2-3 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons olive oil
salt and pepper
1-2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

Wash and dry Swiss chard.  Tear the leaves from the stems.  Chop the stems into 1/2" pieces and tear or chop the leaves to 2" pieces.  Dice the garlic cloves.  In a medium to large size skillet, heat the olive oil on medium.  Add the garlic and chard stems and cook until softened (about 3 minutes).  Add the leaves.  Toss in the hot oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Cover pan and let the leaves wilt for about 2 minutes.  Uncover, add the balsamic and toss to coat.  Serve immediately.
Also great tossed with crumbled goat cheese!