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An Epic Biscuit…The Sequel, And Garden Update

On Occasion I make a recipe and it turns out great and the second time I make it, it flops. Since I have sought the perfect biscuit recipe like seeking the Holy Grail for years and having found a great one on try #1, I decided to make them again to see if my results are the same.

Epic Biscuit II

Epic Biscuit II

Notice the photo is better, I used a dark background and that makes a huge difference in the photo quality IMHO.

The second go around the biscuits rose but not quite as high, it could be that I patted the dough down a bit thinner than the last time, I did not place them as close together on the sheet pan, or that my buttermilk was not as fresh who knows but they still rose nicely, were tender, fluffy and delicious. I wrapped and froze them for another day.

garden

garden

In July I had my garden re worked to help me with diminishing the weed population and hopefully the mosquitoes too.  Happy to report that although I still have some weeds they are about 90% better than before and almost manageable for me to take care of myself. I have only killed 4 or 5 of the plants that were initially planted (may not have been my fault). Also my herbs including the basil are doing really well. I am also very happy that there are less mosquitoes this year as well so I can enjoy my backyard.

two types of basil regular sweet and smal spicy

two types of basil regular sweet and smal spicy

Jessica planted sunflowers, it is her signature flower and when she initially put them in the ground they were about a foot tall. Now they are over 6 ft tall and look at this beauty.

sunflower

sunflower

In closing I believe this biscuit recipe is a keeper and will be made over and over again.  Since I already gave credit to the author in my last post and there is no way to contact her I am including the recipe in this post.

Southern Buttermilk Biscuits

From Food.com Author P4

  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the board ( if you can get White Lily flour, your biscuits will be even better)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder ( use one without aluminum)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt or 1 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, very cold
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • ( approx)1/2 cup sugar ( for topping) NOTE I did not put sugar on mine
  1. Preheat your oven to 450°F.
  2. Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl, or in the bowl of a food processor.
  3. Cut the butter into chunks and cut into the flour until it resembles course meal.
  4. If using a food processor, just pulse a few times until this consistency is achieved.
  5. Add the buttermilk and mix JUST until combined.
  6. If it appears on the dry side, add a bit more buttermilk. It should be very wet.
  7. Turn the dough out onto a floured board.
  8. Gently, gently PAT (do NOT roll with a rolling pin) the dough out until it’s about 1/2″ thick. Fold the dough about 5 times, gently press the dough down to a 1 inch thick.
  9. Use a round cutter to cut into rounds.
  10. You can gently knead the scraps together and make a few more, but they will not be anywhere near as good as the first ones.
  11. Place the biscuits on a cookie sheet- if you like soft sides, put them touching each other.
  12. If you like”crusty” sides, put them about 1 inch apart- these will not rise as high as the biscuits put close together.

An Epic Biscuit

Real Southern Buttermilk Biscuit

Real Southern Buttermilk Biscuit

I have mentioned previously more than a few times that I consider myself biscuit challenged. They are usually dry, heavy, hard and really pretty bad. I follow directions, but they just never seem to turn out light and fluffy you know like the biscuits that you get in the can, the refrigerated ones from the store. I thought that maybe I was holding myself and the recipes up to too high of a standard but felt that there had to be a recipe out there that produced a biscuit that met my expectations. I went out on a limb this morning, I am an Air BNB host and had a lovely couple from Belgium staying with me, I offer breakfast on the first morning in Brooklyn and decided to try making this recipe for them (if they didn’t turn out I had English Muffins as a back up, had to have a safety net).

I am happy to report that the biscuits are fantastic. It is someones Southern Great Grandmothers recipe and is on Food.com by cook P4, I followed the recipe to the letter and the results are amazing. Light, fluffy and delicious. I used full fat buttermilk and good Irish butter. They come together quickly, are easy to make and the results are wonderful. Click on Food.com for the recipe. I think one of my problems with biscuits or scones is that I have a heavy hand, probably from years of kneading bread. I barely handled this dough, I folded it as instructed exactly 5 times no more and gently patted the dough, I was gentle with the biscuit cutter, not turning it but a straight down cutting.

Look at the rise on that biscuit, I was really so pleased. I placed them close together on the baking sheet so that they touched each other giving a higher rise and soft sides. I served them for breakfast this morning with omelette and bacon, good salted butter and homemade strawberry jam.

I couldn’t wait to share this recipe with you all, if anyone is searching for a good/great recipe for biscuits, try this and let me know how you like it. I only had one biscuit left which explains the lack of photo’s but I feel it’s really is a thing of beauty and this biscuit deserved it’s close up.

IMG_5910

Mediterranean Cold Cous Cous Salad

Cous Cous salad

Cous Cous salad

No recipe required here, all you need is some Israeli Cous Cous and whatever vegetables you might like to add, make as much or as little as you want and adjust to your own personal preference, I am sure you know that there are two kinds of cous cous readily available there is a finer grain semolina and the Israeli which is much larger and when cooked al dente is nicely toothsome, it is my favorite and I use it all the time. It actually reminds me of Pastene which is almost identical in size and texture. I did not add onion or garlic although I think it would be good. For a milder onion flavor I used some chives. NOTE: Don’t skip the toasted pine nuts, they add so much to this salad.

Israeli cous cous

Israeli cous cous

I throw this salad together almost weekly, the ingredients vary depending on what I have that needs to be used. As shown, here is the list of ingredients:

Israeli Cous Cous

Fresh tomatoes

cucumber

Olives

Feta Cheese

Fresh herbs, basil, parsley and chives

dried mint

toasted pine nuts

lemon juice

olive oil

salt and pepper

IMG_5790Make the cous cous first, bring a pot of generously salted water to a boil, add the cous cous and cook for 8-10 minutes. Remove from stove and pour into a strainer, run cold water over it to stop the cooking process, it’s ok if they are slightly hard. They will soften in the dressing and I recommend letting this sit for a few hours or even over night. I chop the tomatoes, add the herbs and olives and toss in the cous cous, toast the pine nuts and crumble the feta into the salad, squeeze some lemon and drizzle on the olive oil, do this according to however you like it. Season with salt and pepper. There is no right or wrong way to make this salad,  really!!!  Have fun with it.

A Theraputic Tart

Peach and blackberry therapy pie

Peach and blackberry therapy pie

I have been absent for a while, a few weeks. Honestly, it has been very hard coping and adjusting and I was not doing well. I have felt uninspired and have not cooked at all for almost 3 weeks. Today though I started reading posts from you all, I have a back log and will try to get to them all, I may not be able to but I will try. Your blog posts inspire me and I actually felt better today after looking at some of your wonderful recipes and stories. It will take me a few days to catch up and I am looking forward to all the good reads.

So today I made a tart. Saturday for only the second time this summer I went to the farmers market and I thought seeing all the gorgeous summer produce would inspire me. I bought tomatoes, peppers, peaches, nectarines, Japanese turnips and a few other things. They sat in a bowl on my table until today. I decided I better start cooking again and the peaches were in danger of going bad so I made a peach tart I also threw in a few blackberries that I had in the freezer. I like to think of this as therapy, making myself get back into the kitchen was good for me. The peaches were amazing, tart and sweet at the same time, perfectly ripe and juicy.

The pie dough is my go to basic recipe from Julia Child. It has never failed me.

Julia Childs Pie Dough Recipe

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup cake flour

1/2 tsp salt

6 oz cold butter cut into cubes

4 tbs cold shortening or leaf lard

1/2 cup ice water

Whisk salt and flour together, add the butter and shortening or lard, using your hands or pastry cutter work into the flour until it resembles crumbs with pieces of the butter the size of peas.Alternately you could use your food processor pulsing it. Add the water and mix with a fork until combined. Don’t over work. Gather it with your hands, divide into two discs and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate overnight or for at least an hour.

The fruit filling is simple I used 5 peaches and a handful of blackberries, peeled and sliced the peaches, added 1/3 cup sugar, 2 tbs flour and a pinch of salt and cinnamon.

If I were making pie I would not blind bake but for the tart I did. Blind bake the crust, line with parchment, weigh it down with beans or pie weights put it in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes, remove the parchment and pie weights and bake another 10-15 minutes, it should be blonde only ever so slightly brown. Add the fruit, I like to make a lattice top, place in the refrigerator for 15 minutes, lower the oven temp to 375 degrees and bake for about 45 minutes until its golden brown and bubbly. Oh, don’t forget to put an egg wash on the lattice top and sprinkle with a little sugar before baking.

IMG_5759

Thank You All!

IMG00095-20101113-1323

I am sorry I have not responded directly to each of your kind comments regarding the passing of my Nando. I just want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart. It has been a pretty terrible few days and I am learning to re adjust my life which has revolved around the care of my boy. Here is a little about how Nando became a part of my family. I hope to be cooking soon, one step at a time. Thank you all again you are all wonderful friends.

Izzy with her cupcake leash

Izzy with her cupcake leash

First there was Izzy, she was a tiny sweet little bundle of joy, she helped me get over the death of my other 2 wonderful dogs Lei Ling and Cody who tragically both died of cancer less than a year apart. Izzy was wonderful, full of life and the sweetest puppy ever but I was gone a lot, a very busy work schedule kept me out for extended lengths of time. I decided that Izzy needed a friend who would keep her company. I found a local pug rescue group and applied online for a young adult pug. They told me that young adults are hard to come by and there could be a year or more wait, so my heart kind of sank but I trusted that the right dog would come along. 4 days after they recieved my application they called me and said that miraculously they had just received a 10 1/2 month old black pug named Pokey and asked me if I would be interested. I leaped through the phone and couldn’t say yes quickly enough. They said that they knew his age, born November 3, 2000 because he was found tied to a pole in Long Island with a envelope tied around his neck, in the envelope were his medical records, papers and explanation of why he was given up/abandoned. It seems that he was a Christmas gift from husband to wife, they decided to divorce. The husband didn’t want him and the wife had to move and her new apt did not allow pets so they left him outside (really don’t understand why he wasn’t take to a rescue group or something) Somehow he ended up at Pug Rescue of Long Island. They brought him to me the next day, I was expecting this tiny puppy and when I saw him I had to do a double take, he was the biggest pug I had ever seen. I immediately changed his name from Pokey to Nando and he became a part of our family, Nando and Izzy immediately became best friends. They were togther all the time, slept together, ate together, sat on the same window seat, both waiting for me to come home, that was the highlight of my day. I quickly learned that Nando was a really good eater, I mean really loved food. He looked forward to eating and when I placed his bowl down you could almost see him smile. He was the sweetest most gentle dog I have ever known, in the almost 15 years that he was with me I never once heard him growl, he never snapped. He was my gentle giant pug. When I would walk him some people asked me if he is a pit bull (uh no!!) one lady asked if he was a Vietnamese Pot Belly Pig, no again. He had a good and happy long life with me and I am thankful I had the priviledge of caring for both Nando and Izzy.

I hope I didn’t bore you all I just thought you might be interested in learn a little of the history behind my two pugs. Even though both are gone they will always be with me in spirit.

He loved to sit on my lap while I worked

He loved to sit on my lap while I worked

Nando

A candle burns in Brooklyn

A candle burns in Brooklyn

My sweet Nando passed away yesterday. I had to make the decision to help him. He was suffering and the decision was clear for me. Nando’s Doctor was very kind, she made a house call yesterday to check on him, she said that he was hanging on for me and I needed to give him this last gift and free him from his pain. My heart is broken I know I did the right thing but it is never easy. For the past 3+ weeks he deteriorated tremendously and caring for him was all consuming. I could not leave him alone but thankfully when I needed to go out I had friends that helped me take care of him. It will take time to come to grips with the fact that Nando and Izzy are no longer with me. Thank you all for your kindness and support. Izzy and Nando and their best friend Daisey are all together now free from pain.

izzy and nando

izzy and nando

 

 

My New Blender

First of all thank you all for your comments and recommendations.  I truly appreciate all the input, honestly getting recommendations from cooks who like me use their appliance on a daily basis is worth more than any advertisement or review so thank you.

My head was swimming, reading about the different products on the market, the reviews etc… it became very confusing so I stopped reading reviews and concentrated on what you all recommended along with the facts about the machines.

I set a budget of $300. Right now with all the Veterinary visits etc.. the amount I could spend was limited. I am sure any of you with pets can attest to how expensive it is to visit the Vet, the tests and office visits and meds are mind boggling and Nando is still struggling and at the Doc’s almost every week.

  • I wanted a machine that was powerful approximately 1000 + watts.
  • A machine that could do everything from making smoothies and pureed soups to crushing ice
  • Had to fit within my budget
  • A good track record, not asking for perfect good is fine.

My first choice was a Vitamix but the model I wanted was almost$700. I probably could have stretched my budget and gotten another model but thats the one I want. The other blenders I considered were the NutriBullet, Breville Hemiphere, Kitchen Aid Torrent. I would like to have purchased from Williams Sonoma because I love their fantastic customer service, it’s the best bar none. The NutriBullet is a great machine but the carafe is not large enough for my purposes and the RX has a heating element which I didn’t want or need. I almost purchased the Breville but the Hemisphere got mixed reviews and I just wasn’t sure it was for me. The Kitchen Aid Torrent is new, I love Kitchen Aid  my stand mixer is so good and reliable but I decided with a price tag of $449-$599 depending where you got it was not in my budget and if I am going to spend that much I’ll just get a Vitamix. The other machine that receied some good to great comments was the Ninja, it seemed to have everything I was looking for and at a reasonable price.

I decided to buy the Ninja Professional, it has 1100 watts, a 64 ounce carafe and two individual small cups for my smoothies. It has everything I wanted, power, size, versatility was only $139 so less than my alloted budget, so here’s hoping I like it. I am excited to give it a go, it arrived today. Thank you all for your great advice and recommendations.

Advertising photo by Ninja people

Advertising photo by Ninja people

Blender Recommendations Needed

Waring blender

Waring blender

This have been really busy here, taking care of Nando, out of town company, my cousin and her kids are here visiting. This will be short and sweet. My Waring blender which has served me well for many years has finally died. I need a new blender. I am asking for recommendations from you. I have been thinking about a vitamix but not sure I need it, I want it to be powerful and efficient and long lasting. What do you use? Would love to hear from you. There are so many out there, this Waring was a real work horse and lasted 12+ years. Thanks everyone!

Has anyone used or heard of Smeg Blenders? Very cool looking but are they any good?

Selma’s Extraordinary Marinated And Roasted Chicken, Potatoes And Chickpeas

Selma a bright light

Selma a bright light

This is a very special Fiesta Friday, we have lost a dear friend, Selma from Selma’s table succumbed to cancer on July 4th. I never had the pleasure of meeting her personally and only knew her through her blog, we exchanged a few emails she was encouraging me about my sour dough starter. Her starter made it’s way around the blogging community, she was generous with her time and advise and talent.

Her recipes were rustic and full of flavor. She was a great recipe writer, developer, photographer and of course an amazing cook, you can tell she cooked with love.  As many of you know I am very active as a contributor at Food52, when I saw that her amazing chicken dish was a finalist in the contest for “The best one pot meal” I literally jumped for joy. I saved the recipe meaning to try it,  but life got in the way and I forgot about it. It was a well deserved win for Selma, this dish is incredible. I mean INCREDIBLE, I kid you not it is so loaded with flavor when you take your first bite all you can do is close your eyes and thank her. If you are not vegetarian make this dish NOW, it’s that good. If you are vegetarian visit Elaine’s amazing blog Foodbod and make the dish that inspired Selma’s contest winning recipe

If you have never visited Selma’s Table please do, make one of her fantastic recipes and you will see what I mean when I say what a wonderfully talented cook she was. When the editors at Food52 found out about Selma’s passing they decided to post a tribute to her highlighting several of her recipes, look for it today on Food52 (here it is).  This week along with Angie@The Novice Gardener/Fiesta Friday we are joined by Elaine@foodbod, Jhuls@The Not So Creative Cook, and Sue@birgerbird to remember Selma and honor her life as we cooks do best by preparing Selma’s recipes. If you would like to participate in this special tribute to Selma simply click on the link above, you don’t have to cook if you have a poem or anything that you feel celebrates Selma’s life it would be great.

Selma, you were/are loved by so many and your presence will be sorely missed.

Selma's Chicken

Selma’s Extraordinary Marinated Chicken,potatoes and chickpeas

Extraordinary Marinated and Roasted Chicken, Potatoes, and Chickpeas

By Selma | Selma’s Table

Food52 Editors’ Comments: WHO: Divasparkle is an adventurous cook who hails from across the pond, in London. WHAT: A comforting one-dish meal with a sauce built in. HOW: If you’ve read the title of this recipe, you know the method — just marinate, roast, and eat. WHY WE LOVE IT: This is the ultimate dinner-party dish; it will taste like you’ve been working on it all day, but you’ll know the truth: You spent 10 minutes mixing the marinade and turning on the oven, and had the rest of the day to yourself. Tell them, or don’t; it’s up to you.

After its stint in the oven, the marinade cooks down to this incredible, sticky savoriness around the potatoes and chicken. And when combined with the crispy bits of chickpeas, tender chicken, and marinade-sodden potatoes, it’s heaven on a plate. This is adapted from Elaine Boddy’s “Lebanese Inspired Potatoes and Chickpeas” from her lovely blog “foodbod.”

Serves 4 to 6

  • 400 grams chickpeas (about one 15-ounce can)
  • 800 grams (1 3/4 pounds) potatoes
  • 1 medium head of garlic, cloves separated
  • 8 bone in, skin on, chicken thighs
  • For the marinade:
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 to 3 lemons
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon harissa paste (or to your taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon chile flakes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • Salt and pepper to season
  • To finish/serve:
  • 2 teaspoons dry-roasted whole cumin seeds
  • 80 grams chopped coriander leaves and stalks (or one small handful)
  • 300 milliliters Greek yogurt or tzatziki (or enough for each serving to have a generous dollop)
  1. The day before, rinse and drain the chickpeas. Peel the potatoes and cut them into 3 inch chunks.
  2. Give the lemons 30 seconds or so in the microwave to help release more juice, or roll on a flat surface while applying a little pressure. Slice in half and squeeze out as much juice as you can. Mix the marinade ingredients together in a medium bowl. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
  3. Place the chicken, chickpeas, potatoes, and garlic in a large freezer bag and pour in the marinade. Squeeze out the air and seal the bag. Flop it around a bit to make sure that the marinade gets everywhere. Place on a plate or in a bowl and pop in the fridge to marinate for a day. Turn the bag over whenever you open the fridge over the next 24 hours. (Alternatively, you can just mix the chicken, marinade, and other ingredients in a bowl, and place that bowl, covered, in the fridge, mixing occasionally as it marinates.)
  4. An hour or so before you are ready to eat, heat the oven to 200º C (375º F). Remove the bag from the fridge and tumble the contents into a roasting dish large enough for everything to be spread out. Season with salt and pepper. Cover the dish tightly with foil and cook for 1 hour. Remove the foil and cook for another 15 minutes or so, until the chicken skin and potatoes are crispy and cooked through, and the chickpeas get a little crunchy. Watch carefully to make sure the marinade does not go from gooey and delicious to a burnt crisp. Remove from the oven and scatter over the roasted cumin seeds and chopped coriander leaves.
  5. Serve with a dollop of Greek yoghurt or tzatziki on the side, and prepare to be worshipped.
so delicious

so delicious

Update Nando’s Wheels

Nando's wheelchair

Nando’s wheelchair

So many of you have kindly asked about Nando and the status of his wheels, thank you so much for your concern. We got Nando’s wheelchair but he cannot use it, it doesn’t work for him right now. He has been walking with his head tilted to the left and hanging down and when we attached the cart he went over in a somersault. He can barely walk right now, I took him to the Vet the other day who diagnosed IVD, Idiopathic Vestibular Disease or as she put it Old Dog Vestibular Disease. It turns out that he has a severe inner ear infection in both ears which could be the reason he falls and tilts to the left. He is on antibiotics both oral and in his ears. I contacted Harlan at Red Flyer and told him I would return the wheelchair but he said to hang on to it in the hopes that the antibiotics would help Nando so that he can use it.

He was having a hard time before but now this has made things a hundred times worse and more difficult. Watching him try to move is heartbreaking and I honestly didn’t know what was wrong. I thought maybe a stroke, He is struggling but keeps trying to walk, he is so determined. I have to hold him up to eat, he still has a great appetite despite all of this, Nando is my foodie pug. Keep him in your thoughts.

 

Suzanne and Nando

Nando

Nando this time last year

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