Sausage and Clams With Polenta

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Serves 4
Ingredients:

For the  polenta, See the following recipe
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 bunch broccoli rabe, florets chopped, or 1/2 head escarole, chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
3/4 pound sweet Italian sausages, cut into chunks
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
3/4 cup dry white wine
16 littleneck clams, scrubbed
Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

Directions:
Prepare the polenta and keep warm, until ready to serve.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and broccoli rabe, season with salt and pepper and cook until the broccoli rabe is slightly tender, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Add the sausage to the pot and cook until just brown, breaking it up with a spoon, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook until soft, about 2 minutes. Add the wine, bring to a boil and cook 3 minutes.

Add the clams; cover and cook over medium-high heat until the clams open, 5 to 7 minutes (discard any that do not open). Return the broccoli rabe to the pot and season with salt and pepper. Divide the polenta among bowls and top with the sausage-clam mixture and cooking liquid. Sprinkle with parsley, if desired.

 

Creamy Polenta

 Serves 6

 Ingredients:
5 cups water, milk, or chicken or vegetables stock (See Cook’s Notes)
1 cup medium or coarse yellow cornmeal (See Cook’s Notes)
Kosher salt, to taste
2 tablespoons unsalted butter or extra-virgin olive oil

 

Directions:
Pre-soak the  cornmeal, which requires advance planning but cuts cooking time roughly in half, combine water with cornmeal in a large mixing bowl and let stand, covered, at room temperature overnight. When ready to cook, scrape soaked cornmeal and water into a large saucier or saucepan and set over high heat.

Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Let boil, stirring frequently, until polenta thickens enough that it starts to  sputter or “spit”. Lower heat immediately to prevent spitting and continue to cook, stirring frequently with a spoon or silicone spatula and scraping bottom to prevent scorching, until polenta becomes thick and pulls away from side of saucepan, for  about 30 minutes. Taste and season with salt.

Stir in butter or olive oil using either a spoon, silicon spatula, or whisk. If the polenta forms lumps, beat vigorously with a stiff whisk to remove the lumps. If polenta becomes too firm or begins to set, add a small amount of water, stock, or milk, and beat in with a whisk until fully incorporate and no lumps remain.

Serve right away with accompaniment of your choice, or scrape into a vessel and chill until set, then cut into pieces for grilling, searing, or frying.

Cook’s Notes:
Any medium or coarse cornmeal will work here, whether the package says “polenta” or not; avoid instant polenta, which promises a quick cooking time in exchange for sub-par flavor and texture.

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Rosemary Garlic Roasted Chicken

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Serves 4

Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
8 skin-on, chicken thighs
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
3 heads garlic
4 to 6 sprigs fresh rosemary
8 slices sourdough bread, toasted
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Directions:
To marinate the chicken, add the buttermilk  to a large bowl, followed by the  chicken, Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Allow the chicken to marinate  overnight for best results.

Heat the oven to 425 º F.

Heat the olive oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and cook, skin-side down, until browned, about 5 minutes.

Separate the heads of garlic into cloves but do not peel. Flip the chicken; add the garlic and rosemary to the skillet and transfer to the oven. Roast until the chicken is cooked through but still moist, 15 to 20 more minutes.

Place the bread on a platter and top each slice with a chicken thigh. Add the vinegar to the skillet and scrape up any fond ( browned bits) with a wooden spoon. Add 3 tablespoons water and simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, about 2 minutes. Pour the sauce and garlic over the chicken and bread.

Cook’s Notes:
You can squeeze the garlic out of its skin and spread on the chicken or bread.

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All photographs and content, excepted where noted, are copyright protected. Please do not use these photos without prior written permission. If you wish to republish this photograph and all other contents, then we kindly ask that you link back to this site. We are eternally grateful and we appreciate your support of this blog.

Thank you so much!

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Hello, August!

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Late summer eating offers an amazing variety of delicious produce.

Exact crop availability and harvest times vary year-to-year, of course, and this list will help you know when to look for what at markets near you. So, check out the list below for a quick guide to the top in-season fruits and vegetables for the month of August, before the summer season is over.

August Fruits and Vegetables

Asparagus
Avocados
Beets
Blackberries
Blueberries
Cauliflower
Carrots
Cherries
Celery
Corn
Cucumbers
Eggplant
Green Beans
Greens
Herbs
Kale
Leeks
Mango
Nectarines
Oranges
Peaches
Peppers
Plums
Potatoes
Radishes
Raspberries
Spinach
Strawberries
Squash
Tomatoes
Watermelons
Yellow Squash
Zucchini

This Month’s Featured Fruit: 

Peaches!

There is nothing better than biting into a fresh, juicy peach that is so ripe you need a napkin in your other hand. August is National Peach Month and you are sure to find delicious, in-season peaches at the grocery store  all month long.

Peaches are reminiscent of summer no matter what time of the year you enjoy them. Their unique, fuzzy skin and soft, sweet flesh distinguishes them from their cousin, the nectarine.

Peaches are often seen in crisps, cobblers and pies, but remember that peaches are delicious in more than just dessert recipes. Try tossing them in a salad for a lovely addition of color, taste and texture. You can also enjoy them lightly grilled or blended into your favorite barbecue sauce.

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Photo Credit: National Arbor Day Foundation.

Varieties of Peaches

There are two main types of peaches available today: Semi-freestone and Freestone.

  • Freestone peaches will have a stone or pit that will easily fall from the fruit, and are usually the ones you’ll find at your grocery store or farmer’s market.  They are available from Ontario from mid-August to the end of September.  These are a great choice for eating out of hand and for preserving.
  • Semi-freestone peaches have flesh that partially clings to the pit. These peaches are excellent for eating out-of-hand. They are available from Ontario from mid-July to mid-August.

You may also spot donut peaches. This heirloom variety is short, flat and white-fleshed with a lower acidity level than traditional peaches.

Clingstone peaches, as their name indicates, have pits that cling to the fruit. These are not usually available at retail and are more often used for commercial purposes such as canned peaches and jams.

What Goes Well With Peaches?

Herbs & Spices: allspice, cinnamon, cloves, vanilla, nutmeg, mint, basil, ginger, honey, tarragon, rosemary, and lemongrass

Produce: berries, lemon, arugula, tomato, fennel, endive, grapes, lime, greens, other stone fruits like nectarines, apricots, cherries, plums

Dairy & Other:, buttermilk, butter, bourbon, brandy, butter, cream, ice cream, mascarpone cheese, vinegar, wine, sugar, and yogurt

Savory: pistachios, almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans, pork, pesto, prosciutto, and poultry

Peach Serving Ideas

The best way to enjoy a fresh peach on its own. . .  just take a bite.And  there are so many other ways to enjoy peaches, too!

Here are some ways to use one of Mother Nature’s desserts in your everyday cooking:

  • Bake them with some cinnamon and sugar in a peach pie, peach cobbler, or crisp. You can also grill or roast them to be served in a salad, or with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream or mascarpone cheese.
  • Slice some peaches over cottage cheese and add some chopped walnuts and honey on top for a mid-day snack.
  • Slice peaches into rings and grill for a few minutes on each side. Serve with fish, chicken or over a summer salad.
  • Crumble some graham crackers in a bowl. Slice peaches and lay over graham crackers. Top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or cool whip and some cinnamon or freshly grated nutmeg for a sweet dessert.
  • Slice a crusty baguette into two thin pieces. Lay sliced Gruyere cheese, ham, peaches and arugula in between slices and toast for a sweet and savory Panini.
  • Top your oatmeal with fresh peach slices, almond slivers, plain yogurt and a little brown sugar for a delicious breakfast.
  • Blend peaches with strawberries, bananas, ice, skim milk and wheat germ for a fruity smoothie on-the-go.
  • To enjoy the fresh taste of ripe peaches in the winter months, preserve them in a jam, or sliced in a mason jar with syrup. Substitute the apricots for peaches in this easy no-cook jam recipe!
  • Try using peaches to create an irresistible sauce for chicken wings. Or turn it into a salsa to top tacos or pork tenderloin.

How To Select and Store Peaches

Peaches range in color and can be anywhere from light pink and cream to a reddish-yellow. The blush or color of a peach does not indicate ripeness, but is a way of identifying the variety. Be sure to avoid those that have any green coloring or soft spots.  When selecting peaches, look for fruit that feels heavy for their size, and that have a creamy or yellow background.

Don’t be afraid to buy peaches that are firm. To ripen peaches, place them in loosely closed paper bag.  Leave them on your kitchen counter (at room temperature and out of direct sunlight) for a few days.  If you really want to speed up the process, add an apple to the bag. Don’t use a plastic bag as this will trap moisture and can cause premature decay.

When your peaches are ripe, store them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator, or in their original plastic clamshell packaging, and they will last for up to five to seven days.  Peaches are ripe when give slightly to pressure and have a sweet aroma.

If you buy a container full of peaches, we recommend opening it when you get home to sort according to ripeness. Enjoy those that are already ripe, first!

To Freeze Peaches, peel and pit them, then cut into slices or cubes. Make a simple sugar syrup and submerge them in a plastic container. Alternatively, add some orange juice to keep them from drying out. Pack tightly into plastic containers, leaving 1-inch (2.5-cm) air space at top. Top with a crumpled sheet of wax paper and seal tightly. Frozen peaches can be stored for one year. Watch this fun segment featuring Mairlyn Smith.

To prevent browning, simply coat sliced peaches with lemon juice immediately after slicing. Another solution is to dip the slices into water that has a squeeze of lemon.

 

How To Prepare Peaches

Wash peaches just before you are ready to use them. Washing them in advance will only make them spoil faster.

To remove the pit, cut your peach lengthwise around the stone (follow the natural indent on the peach) and gently twist both halves in opposite directions to separate them. If the peach is of the freestone variety, the stone will pop out easily.

Peeling stone fruits is a breeze. With a small knife, score an “x” on the bottom of the peach, then place in boiling water for 30 seconds and transfer them to an ice bath (to stop the cooking process). Their skins should slip off easily. After peeling, immediately return them to the ice bath to prevent discoloration.

Peach Tips

  • Top Tip! For the most flavor, peaches are best enjoyed ripe, at room temperature.

  • Peaches will discolour quickly after being cut, so if you aren’t combining them with something acidic, such as lemon juice or salad dressing, quickly dip the fruit in water with a squeeze of lemon and drain well.
  • Sniff a peach for ripeness. If they are ripe, they will  smell sweet.
  • Grill peaches to caramelize the natural sugars in the fruit. Cut a ripe peach in half and remove the pit. Grill over medium heat for about 2-3 minutes per side to emphasize the caramelized flavor.
  • Peaches add great natural sweetness to smoothies, oatmeal, etc.

Peaches Nutrition

Peaches are good sources of lycopene and lutein, similar to tomatoes. The lutein gives peaches their red and orange color and lycopene is especially beneficial in fighting cancer and preventing heart disease.

Did you know that 1 medium peach (98 g) contain a great number of your daily-recommended intake of nutrients: 11% of Vitamin C, 4% of fibre (1.9 g), 5% of potassium, 4% of Vitamin A, and 3% of copper.

 

 

Sources:
August Produce Spotlight: Peaches. (2011). Healthy Schools Campaign. Date Accessed June 24, 2018. https://healthyschoolscampaign.org/uncategorized/august-produce-spotlight-peaches-6539/

Produce Made Simple: Peaches. (2018) The Ontario Produce Marketing Association. Date Accessed June 24, 2018. https://producemadesimple.ca/peaches/

Rose Petal Jelly

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From the earliest times, indeed throughout the history of civilization, people from around the world have held the rose close to their hearts.

Earliest roses are known to have flourished 35 million-years ago originating  in Asia.The earliest known gardening was the planting of roses along the most traveled routes of early nomadic humans.

In ancient Mesopotamia, Sargon I, King of the Akkadians (2684 BC — 2630 BC) brought “vines, figs and rose trees” from a military expedition beyond the River Tigris.

Rose petals were used in Ancient Egypt, and petrified rose wreaths have been unearthed from Egyptian tombs of antiquity. During the  late Ptolemic period (305 BC–30 BC), Cleopatra had her living quarters filled with the petals of roses so that when Marc Antony met her, he would long remember her for such opulence and be reminded of her every time he smelt a rose. Her scheme worked for him. Such is the power of roses.

The “rosa gallica” was already praised by the Greek poet Anacreon in the 6th century BC. Roses

It was probably brought to Gaul with the Roman conquest. The Romans cultivated a great beauty. Rose petals were also popular in Rome and Greece with the oil produced from them being used as both a medicine and as a perfume for wealthy Romans. The rose petals were used for balms and oils in the Roman society, particularly when worshiping the dead.Roman high society women used petals much like currency believing that they could banish wrinkles if used in poultices. Rose petals were often dropped in wine because it was thought that the essence of rose would stave off drunkenness and victorious armies would return to be showered with rose petals from the civilians that crowded the balconies above the streets long before the confetti and ticker tape parades welcoming events and people of note in New York City in the 20th Century. The Romans also used them as adornments at weddings where they were made into crowns to be worn by the bride and the groom.

And Even though petrified  remnants of roses wreaths have been  have been found in ancient Egyptian tombs and the evidence of rose hips having been found in Europe, the earliest record of roses being  cultivated by the Chinese  was about 5,000 years ago.

And because of trade and wars, the rose has been popular throughout the Middle East, with Iran being the center of it all.  You see, Iran, historically known as Persia, is situated on a bridge of land that connects the Middle East with the Far East. And because of Persia’s  geographic position, roses  have also been a staple in Persian cuisine for over a 3,000 years. It has a considerable place and  historical value in the evolution of the culinary arts from the Middle East to Europe, as it was right in the center of the ancient Silk Road.

The Silk Road was an ancient network of trade routes that connected the East and West. and  derives its name from the lucrative trade in silk carried out along its length, beginning in the Han Dynasty (207 BC –220 CE). Trade on the Silk Road played a significant role in the development of the civilizations of China, Korea, Japan, the Indian subcontinent, Iran/Persia, Europe, the Horn of Africa and Arabia, opening long-distance political and economic relations between the civilizations.  Though silk was the major trade item exported from China, many other goods were traded, as well as religions, syncretic philosophies, and technologies.

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Traders in antiquity along the Silk Road in include the  BactriansSogdiansSyriansJews, Arabs, Iranians, Turkmens, Chinese, Malays, Indians, Somalis, Greeks, Romans, Georgians, and Armenians (Hansen 2012). In addition to economic trade, the Silk Road was a route for cultural trade among the civilizations along its network (Bentley, 1993).   And has thus, a transitional point where  exchange of cultures and the trade of exotic products and cuisine  were passed between the West and the Orient for thousands of years.

Ancient Persians took their wares to all the corners of the world, in particular pomegranates, saffron and spinach, and the country also played host to much of the bargaining between the East and West. These bargained goods, including rice, lemons and eggplant, now feature prominently in the national Iranian dishes were traded for silk and roses.  Roses have been used in Persian cuisine for 3,000 years. In fact, the use of rose petals in Middle Eastern cooking is largely the product of Persian influence. Rose petals were adopted throughout the Middle East after the Persian Conquests which established the Achaemenid Empire (550–330 BC) and subsequently the Sasanian Empire (224–651 AD),and eventually roses were in many cuisines throughout the world including Indian and Chinese food.

Map_of_the_Achaemenid_Empire

Roses often show up in Turkish delight, a Middle Eastern confection that is one of the oldest sweets in the world. Turkish delight can be made with rose petals or with rose water. They also often show up in certain blends of the Moroccan spice mix known as ras el hanout and in some sweetened rice dishes from India.

In Persian cuisine, dried rose petals have been used  in several dishes to flavor or as a garnish. Rose petals are often used to make rose water, which is a less-perishable way to get the rose flavor into baked goods like cakes and puddings. In the Persian household, rosewater is a regular pantry ingredient that is added to sweets, desserts and even coffee.

A popular dessert in  modern Iran just happens to be Bastani, a Persian rose and vanilla ice cream desert that is often garnished with cream chunks and sugar coated rose petals (For the Bastaini Recipe, follow the link to: The Persian Fusion, 2015).

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Eventually roses made their way to France. It is said that Thibaud IV, Count of Thibault_IV_Comte_de_ChampagneChampagne (1201-1253), He initiated the Barons’ Crusade in 1239 and  was famous for being a trouvère, and was the first Frenchman to rule Navarre O’Callaghan 1975). According to most historians, the Barons’ Crusade was not  a glorious campaign, but it  did led to several diplomatic successes (Richard, 1999). Souvenirs that he brought back to Europe included a piece of the true cross and the Chardonnay grape which in modern times is an important component of champagne. Thibaud also brought back a rose bush what was named “Provins” (Latin name rosa gallica ‘officinalis’, the Apothecary’s Rose) from this diplomatic expedition to Jerusalem. Though oral tradition is strong, this is not confirmed by any written chronicle, but the evidence of rose appearing in France during this time, lends credibility to the tale (Fray 2007). Thibaud’s poetic spirit was undoubtedly in awe of the beauty of the rose gardens found in the palaces of the Sultan of Damascus.It is said that Thibaud wanted to cultivate this rose on the hillsides of the Châtel in Provins. One can imagine that, from this intensive cultivation was born the link between the city and the flower, that from then on has been present in the city’s traditions: distinguished visitors, such as Kings Francis Ist, Henri IV, Louis XI, or Queen Catherine de Medicis were offered cushions of dried petals (Evergates, 2007).

Provins always had a vested interest in the cultivation of roses. Over time, these roses63654988_ce06cd1c1f have constantly evolved and wild roses started growing next to those cultivated for specific needs (Fray, 2007). This is true of the Rose of Provins, The apothecary rose, first recorded in the 13th century, and was the foundation of a large industry in growing roses that produced  jellies, powders and oils,  because this particular rose was believed to cure a multitude of illnesses. OLIVIER DE SERRES (1539-1619). French author and agricultural scientist, the father of agronomy in France, identified “several virtues to the one who distills rose water used by apothecaries of syrups and other things…” (Hoffman 1984).  And thus, products with medicinal properties where produced in the form of syrups to relieve digestive problems; as a lotion for dry skin; as products to clean and purify the skin; and made as a rock candy to soothe the throat.And these products are still being made and are still  being used in these modern times.

And since medieval times,the rose is still strongly associated with Provins’ confectionery creativity. Provins still produces all sorts of foods from roses, and its main specialties are rose petal jam, fruit jelly, rose honey, rose candy chocolate, liqueur and other delicacies. Provins is also   a large producer of wine, with the medieval methods of wine making are still being carried out by residents, and some vineyards are still being used to produce to  rose petal wine to this very day (Johnson, 1989) .

 And whether in France or in the Middle East, rose petal jam made from fresh rose petals often makes an appearance on the breakfast table to be eaten with bread and butter or clotted cream.The sophisticated floral flavor of rose petal jam truly elevates the foodie palette.

And it should be noted that the flavor of rose petals differs depending on which type of rose plant produced them. They can have a floral sweetness or a tartness similar that which comes from citrus fruit. They can also be mildly spicy. They are often intensely aromatic, which is the quality that is most valuable for cooking.

And given the rather long culinary history, how I came to adore rose petal jelly was through my Grand’s love of growing her own pink roses, not just for their beauty, but because she loved rose petal jelly too! This is her recipe that I share with you today.

Enjoy!

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Ingredients:
4 cups pink or red edible roses* (See Cook’s Notes)
6 cups water
1 lemon
6 Tablespoons Class Ball Powdered Pectin **(See Cook’s Notes)
3 cups granulated white sugar

Directions:
Measure the petals.Rinse in cold water to remove debris and small bugs, and drain using a colander. Add the petals and the water to a large saucepan . Set the saucepan on the stove and bring it to a boil. Turn the heat down and let the petals simmer for fifteen minutes.

Using a colander lined with a double layer of cheesecloth,pressing all the liquid from the petals strain the liquid into a bowl to cool slightly. Discard the petals.

Measure the liquid. There should be 4 cups. Add additional water to equal 4 cups of rose liquid, if necessary.

Juice one large lemon into the rose water.

Return the liquid to the saucepan, and add the pectin, stirring thoroughly. Place the saucepan back on the stove bring it to a boil, stirring constantly.

Once the liquid is boiling, add 3 the sugar and continue to mixture it boil for an additional two minutes.

Skim any foam that may form ontop of the jelly.

Ladle the jelly into prepared sterilized jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace and cap the jars with the lids and rims. Let the jarred jelly sit to cool and set on the counter overnight.

Jelly can be stored in the refrigerator for up to six months.

To preserve for storage at room temperature, cover jars with lids and rims, place in a hot water bath (2 -3 inches boiling water) for 15 minutes at a hard boil. However, it should be noted that the jelly must be refrigerated after opening.

Serve this versatile accompaniment with scones, crumpets, toast, croissants and other treats. The jelly also has a variety of uses, including using it as a glaze over fruit or tea cakes and even over vanilla ice cream.

Cook’s Notes:
*All edible flowers must be free of pesticides. Do not eat flowers from florists, nurseries, or garden centers. In many cases they are treated with pesticides not labeled for food crops.

Dried rose petals are great in herbal tea mixes, too. You can also mix dried rose petals, tiny rose buds and a few cardamom pods with black or green tea leaves for an exotic brew.

Dried rose petals sold in UK supermarkets and online are mostly sourced from Pakistan and are usually of rosa canina variety. They are dark pink or crimson in color. Persian dried roses are pale pink and come from damascene roses. Both are good for food decorating but  most  Persian cooks prefer dried roses, available from Middle Eastern groceries and online, for use as a spice.

After boiling, you will notice that the water becomes a dingy brown, and the petals will lose their color. Do not fret. When adding the lemon juice, the acid from the lemons, will transform the liquid into a bright pinkish red.

** One 1.75 ounce package of powered pectin can be used a reasonable substitute.

Sources:
“How to use rose petals in cooking”. (2017). The Persian Fusion. Retrieved July 1, 2018.

“Provins in the dark”. Retrieved June 23, 2018.

Digest, The Reader’s (1978). The world’s last mysteries. Montréal: Reader’s Digest. p. 303. ISBN 089577044X.

Our Rose Garden.:The History of Roses: University of Illinois Extension. (2018). Retrieved July 1, 2018. Retrieves July 1, 2018.  https://extension.illinois.edu/roses/history.cfm

Bentley, Jerry (1993). Old World Encounters: Cross-Cultural Contacts and Exchanges in Pre-Modern Times (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 32.

Boulnois, Luce (2005). Silk Road: Monks, Warriors & Merchants. Hong Kong: Odyssey Books. p. 66. ISBN 962-217-721-2.

Elisseeff, Vadime (2001). The Silk Roads: Highways of Culture and Commerce. UNESCO Publishing / Berghahn Books. ISBN 978-92-3-103652-1.

Evergates, Theodore (2007). The Aristocracy in the County of Champagne, 1100-1300. University of Pennsylvania Press.

Fray, Jean-Luc (2007). Villes et bourgs de Lorraine: réseaux urbains et centralité au Moyen Âge (in French). Presses Universitaires Blaise-Pascal.

Hansen, Valerie (2012). The Silk Road. OUP US. p. 218. ISBN 9780195159318. Archived from the original, Retrieved June 20, 2017. Jewish merchants have left only a few traces on the Silk Road.

Hoffman, Philip. (1984). “The Economic Theory of Sharecropping in Early Modern France”. The Journal of Economic History 1984, page 312.

Johnson, Hugh. (1989). Vintage: The Story of Wine pg 122. Simon and Schuster.

O’Callaghan, Joseph F. (1975). A History of Medieval Spain. Cornell University Press.

Richard, Jean (1999). The Crusades, C.1071-c.1291. Translated by Birrell, Jean. Cambridge University Press.

Tyerman, Christopher (2006). God’s War:A New History of the Crusades. Penguin Books.

Xinru, Liu, (2010). The Silk Road in World History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 11. “Republic of Korea | Silk Road”. en.unesco.org. Archived from the original. Retrieved June 25, 2018.

Hello Friends!

All photographs and content, excepted where noted, are copyright protected. Please do not use these photos without prior written permission. If you wish to republish this photograph and all other contents, then we kindly ask that you link back to this site. We are eternally grateful and we appreciate your support of this blog.

Thank you so much!

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Heirloom Tomato, Cheddar and Bacon Pie

 

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Photo: Hector Sanchez; Styling: Heather Chadduck, 2013

Southern Living Magazine raised the ante on classic tomato pie with a sour cream crust studded with bacon, layers of colorful tomatoes, and plenty of cheese and herbs to tie it all together. Nobody wants a soggy tomato pie, so for best results, seed the tomatoes and drain the slices before baking.This recipe is a bit time consuming and may take up to three hours to prepare,  but it is sure worth the effort!

RECIPE BY SOUTHERN LIVING
June 2013

Serves 6 to 8 

Ingredients:
For the Crust:
2 1/4 cups self-rising soft-wheat flour , such as White Lily®
1 cup cold butter, cut up
8 cooked bacon slices, chopped
3/4 cup sour cream

For Filling :
2 3/4 pounds assorted large heirloom tomatoes, divided (*See Cook’s Notes)
2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 1/2 cups (6 oz.) freshly shredded extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup freshly shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons fresh dill sprigs
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 scallion, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons plain yellow cornmeal

Directions:
Prepare Crust: Place flour in bowl of a heavy-duty electric stand mixer; cut in cold butter with a pastry blender or fork until mixture resembles small peas. Chill 10 minutes.

Add bacon to flour mixture; beat at low speed just until combined. Gradually add sour cream, 1/4 cup at a time, beating just until blended after each addition.

Spoon mixture onto a heavily floured surface; sprinkle lightly with flour, and knead 3 or 4 times, adding more flour as needed. Roll to a 13-inch round. Gently place dough in a 9-inch fluted tart pan with 2-inch sides and a removable bottom. Press dough into pan; trim off excess dough along edges. Chill 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare Filling: Cut 2 pounds of tomatoes into 1/4-inch-thick slices, and remove seeds. Place tomatoes in a single layer on paper towels; sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt. Let stand 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425°F. Stir together Cheddar cheese, next 10 ingredients, and remaining 1 tsp. salt in a large bowl until combined.

Pat tomato slices dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle cornmeal over bottom of crust. Lightly spread 1/2 cup cheese mixture onto crust; layer with half of tomato slices in slightly overlapping rows. Spread with 1/2 cup cheese mixture. Repeat layers, using remaining tomato slices and cheese mixture. Cut remaining 3/4 lb. tomatoes into 1/4-inch-thick slices, and arrange on top of pie.

Bake at 425° for 40 to 45 minutes, shielding edges with foil during last 20 minutes to prevent excessive browning. Let stand 1 to 2 hours before serving.

 

*Cook’s Notes:
To learn more about how to seed and drain tomatoes, please see Tori Avey’s tutorial at the following link: How to Seed Tomatoes

And a method is briefly outlined below:

  1. Place your tomato on a cutting board, stem side facing up.
  2. Roll the tomato sideways so the stem faces to the right, and cut the tomato down the center “equator” line into two halves.
  3. Use a small spoon or a quarter spoon melon baller to scoop the tomato seeds and any tough white core out of the four seed cavities. Discard the seeds.

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Blueberry Turnovers with Lemon Glaze

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Blueberries… there’s really nothing that tastes more like summer!  We went to work in the kitchen this weekend and decided to cook up some yummy blueberry turnovers.

Making flaky turnovers is about as easy as it sounds, and it’s even more fun to do so with family Simply just lay out squares of puff pastry, spoons the blueberry filling into the centers, and fold over one corner to create a pudgy, tightly sealed, triangular pastries.  Brush the tops with egg wash to help them turn deliciously golden when baked, and drizzle with a lemony powdered sugar glaze to create just the right balance of sweet and tart.

These turnovers with summertime flavors are great for desserts or for a nice casual Saturday morning brunch. We hope you will  enjoy these delectable treats!

Serves 8

Ingredients:
Filling:
Vegetable cooking spray
1 cup fresh blueberries
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 Tablespoon lemon zest
2 Tablespoons light brown sugar
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
2 sheets puff pastry (*See Cook’s Notes)

Egg wash:
1 egg yolk + 1 Tablespoons of water
Granulated sugar, for sprinkling

Glaze:
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon honey

 

 

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 450º F.

Lin two baking sheets with parchment paper and lightly coat with vegetable spray. Set aside.

In a bowl mix blueberries, lemon zest, sugars, and cornstarch until the blueberries are well coated. Set aside.

Roll out the puff pastry on a flour coated cutting board and cut each sheet into 4 even squares. Spoon out 1 to tablespoons of the blueberry mixture into the center of each square and fold each over to create 4 triangles. Seal the edges of the pastry with a fork and prick 2 to 3 air vents in each.

Brush turnovers with egg wash and sprinkle with granulated sugar. Place turnovers on parchment paper lined baking sheets and bake for 22-25 minutes until golden brown. Remove and let cool for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a separate bowl mix together confectioner’s sugar , lemon juice and honey to make the  glaze. When turnovers are slightly cool, drizzle glaze over the top with a spoon or rubber spatula. Serve warm.

*Cook’s Notes:
Making puff pastry from scratch is a time consuming process and many home cooks, like the option of using commercially prepared puff pastry sheets that are found in the frozen dessert section of the local supermarkets.

However, if you are adventurous and want to make you puff pastry from scratch, here is a quick and easy recipe from  Gemma Stafford,  a professional chef.  Her recipe is easy and fast to make without all the folding in making traditional puff pastry. The secret to this great recipe is the use of frozen grated butter. Follow the link  to Chef Stafford’s website, BiggerBolderBaking.com , for the recipe.


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All photographs and content, excepted where noted, are copyright protected. Please do not use these photos without prior written permission. If you wish to republish this photograph and all other contents, then we kindly ask that you link back to this site. We are eternally grateful and we appreciate your support of this blog.

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Hello, July!

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Yes, Summer is in full swing and so are the many colorful fruits and vegetables that you will be able to find at your local farmers markets and grocery stores. And there is enough different types of produce for every palette, with many that can be eaten raw. So you don’t always have to turn on the stove. Peaches, Nectarines, Avocados, Tomatoes, and Corn are abound and the perfect produce for backyard barbecues as the vibrant tantalizing offerings make excellent desserts and side dishes. It is also the perfect time for canning tomatoes and peppers so that you can savor the taste of the Summer season during the coming Winter months. So, check out the list below for a quick guide to the top in-season fruits and vegetables for the month of July, while they last.

July Fruits and Vegetables

Apricots
Avocados
Beets
Blueberries
Cabbage
Cantaloupes
Cherries
Corn
Crenshaw Melons
Cucumbers
Figs
Eggplant
Green Beans
Greens
Herbs
Kale
Lemons
Limes
Mango
Nectarines
Oranges
Peppers
Plums
Potatoes
Radishes
Raspberries
Spinach
Strawberries
Squash
Tomatoes
Watermelons
Yellow Squash
Zucchini

This Month’s Featured Produce: Heirloom Tomatoes!

The tomato is the edible, often red, fruit/berry of the plant Solanum lycopersicum, commonly known as a tomato plant. The plant belongs to the nightshade family, Solanaceae. The species originated in western South America.

Aztecs and other peoples in Mesoamerica used the fruit in their cooking. The exact date of domestication is unknown; by 500 BC, it was already being cultivated in southern Mexico and probably other areas.

The Nahuatl (Aztec language) word tomatl gave rise to the Spanish word “tomate”, from which the English word tomato derived. Its use as a cultivated food may have originated with the indigenous peoples of Mexico.The Spanish discovered the tomato from their contact with the Aztec peoples during the Spanish colonization of the Americas, then brought it to Europe, and, from there, to other parts of the European colonized world during the 16th century.

And then there are the Heirloom tomatoes which are also called heritage tomato in the UK, are open-pollinated (non-hybrid) heirloom cultivar of tomatoes. According to tomato experts, heirloom tomatoes can be classified into four categories: family heirlooms, commercial heirlooms, mystery heirlooms, and created heirlooms. They usually have a shorter shelf life and less disease resistance than hybrids bred to resist against specific diseases. They are grown for a variety of reasons, such as for food, historical interest and having access to wider varieties.

For the most past, heirloom tomatoes have been around for a hundred years or more . However, he definition of an heirloom tomato is vague, but unlike commercial hybrids, all are self-fertile varieties that have bred true for 40 years or more and have passed on the saved seeds from one generation to another, by people who wish to save seeds from year to year, as well as for their taste.

Heirloom tomatoes are absolutely beautiful and are always stunning when served. With so many different colors and subtle flavor differences, heirloom tomatoes are perfect for dishes that feature tomato flavor. Numerous varieties of heirloom tomato are widely grown in temperate climates across the world, with greenhouses allowing its production throughout the year.

While tomatoes are botanically berry-type fruits, they are considered culinary vegetables as an ingredient or side dish for savory meals. Because of their versatility, heirloom tomatoes can be consumed in diverse ways, including raw, as an ingredient in many dishes, sauces, salads, and drinks. Heirlooms are such a staple in global cuisine where they can be used as tomato sauce for pasta or pizza, as a base for salsa, or in a curry; there is nothing better than dunking a grilled cheese sandwich into a creamy bowl of tomato soup or slicing them and eating them fresh on a sandwich.

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Photo Credit: Half Baked Harvest , 2016

Varieties

Heirloom tomato cultivars can be found in a wide variety of colors, shapes, flavors and sizes. They can be brown, purple, green, pink, yellow, orange, striped, and of course, red. They come in different shapes and sizes as well: round, oval, ribbed, and squat. Each tomato will develop in its own way to become naturally unique! Some heirloom cultivars can be prone to cracking or lack of disease resistance. As with most garden plants, cultivars can be acclimated over several gardening seasons to thrive in a geographical location through careful selection and seed saving.

Some of the most famous examples include San Marzano, Brandywine, Green Zebra, Gardener’s Delight, Marglobe, Lollypop, Yellow Pear, Silvery Fir Tree, Hillbilly, Paul Robeson, Cherokee Purple, Mortgage Lifter, Neville Tomatos, Mr. Stripey, Costoluto Genovese, Pruden’s Purple, Black Krim, Amish Paste, Aunt Ruby’s German Green, Garden Peach, Hawaiian Pineapple, Big Rainbow, Chocolate Cherry, Red Currant, Matt’s Wild Cherry, and Three Sisters.

What Goes Well With Heirloom Tomatoes?

Tomatoes go well with almost anything! Of course, tomatoes are especially delicious when paired with Italian flavors like oregano, balsamic vinegar, capers, olive oil, garlic, bocconcini or fresh mozzarella cheese. Also enjoy with Parmesan cheese, basil, bacon, rice, mushrooms, pasta, onion, avocado, crusty breads, strawberries, chickpeas, eggs, fennel, parsley, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce.

Enjoy ripe tomatoes by eating them fresh in salads and sandwiches or kick it up a notch and try halving them and grilling them on the BBQ, or stuffing them with rice, cheese and herbs and roasting them!

Enjoy fresh tomatoes topped with salt and pepper along side your eggs and bacon in the morning.

Make your own fresh salsa to serve along tortillas or on baked potatoes.

Chop tomatoes and add fresh basil, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and red onion to make a perfect bruschetta topping for a baguette.

How To Select and Store Heirloom Tomatoes

Tomatoes that are brightly hued, plump and without bruises or blemishes are best. They should be firm, but not rock hard and have a nice, earthy tomato-y smell. They should be heavy for their size, as ripe tomatoes will have more water content.

Store them at room temperature in an open basket if they’re ready to eat for up to a week, but if you want them to ripen faster, place them in a paper bag with an apple or an onion. Avoid storing tomatoes in a plastic bag or in the fridge as the cold causes them to turn mealy and they lose their delicious tomato flavor!

 

How To Prepare Tomatoes

Heirloom tomatoes are extremely versatile since they can be eaten fresh, in sauces, soup, salad, or even stir-fry. Wash tomatoes in cold water and remove any stickers from the grocery store.

To prepare tomato slices for sandwiches, slice them horizontally with a very sharp knife. Dull knives may squish tomatoes instead of cleanly slicing through the skin.

For soups or sauces, you may want to remove the tomato skin by first scoring the bottom of the tomato with an “X”, then blanching in boiling water quickly for about 30 seconds. Remove and place immediately in an ice bath. Once blanched, the tomato skins loosen and are easily peeled off; now they’re ready for use in sauces or soup!

For salad (or even stir fry), slice the tomatoes in half vertically and cut the stem out by slicing a V around the hard part of the stem. Continue to slice in wedges, perfect for eating on their own, in salad, or tossing in the last couple minutes of cooking a stir-fry.

Showcase different heirloom tomato color, size, and flavor in different applications. Fresh is great to show off those beautiful striped tomatoes, but heirloom tomato sauces can showcase different shades and colors of the heirloom tomatoes so well.

Heirloom Tomatoes Tips

Balance the natural acidity of tomato in recipes with either a pinch of salt or sugar or even a bit of baking soda, especially in soup. If you’re making tomato soup, it’s always a fun chemical reaction to share with the kids: let them sprinkle in baking soda and stir it in to see it bubble and foam!

Be sure to watch for bruises or holes in your tomatoes as they will decay quickly. Avoid these ones at the grocery store.

If you have an abundance of tomatoes in the summer, preserve them by canning. Check out this site for safe canning techniques to make sure your preserved tomatoes are safe and delicious after the season.

Tomatoes carry a lot of juice, which can cause a soggy sandwich – especially if you don’t eat it right away. To prevent this, bring tomatoes in a separate container and put them on your sandwich right before eating. For salads, add them at the end to prevent them from diluting the dressing.

You can never go wrong with a classic like blueberry muffins. Perfect for on-the-go breakfasts and late-afternoon snacks, keeping a stash on hand will satisfy all your hunger cravings.

Sources:

Cambridge Dictionaries Online (2015). “English definition of ‘tomato’ “. Cambridge University Press. 2015. Date Accessed June 5 2018. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/tomato?a=british

Lockhart, James (2001). Nahuatl as Written: Lessons in Older Written Nahuatl, with Copious Examples and Texts. Stanford, CA, US: Stanford University Press.

Produce Made Simple: Heirloom Tomatoes. (2018) The Ontario Produce Marketing Association. Date Accessed June 24, 2018. https://producemadesimple.ca/heirloom-tomatoes/

Smith, A. F. (1994). The Tomato in America: Early History, Culture, and Cookery. Columbia SC, US: University of South Carolina Press. ISBN 1-57003-000-6.

Solanaceae Source (2011). “Phylogeny“. Date Accessed May 15, 2018.
http://solanaceaesource.org/content/phylogeny-0

Roasted Shrimp Salad

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Summer cooking is all about keeping cool, and you can do just that with this herbaceous shrimp salad that can be served as an appetizer or as a main course. Feel free to add you own special twist with different herbs and citrus flavors.

Serves 6

Ingredients:
1 large seedless cucumber
2 pounds of 16-20 count raw shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 firm avocado
1 lime, juiced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
2 Tablespoons cilantro, chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh chives, snipped
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 450 ° F.

Chop the cucumber into 3/4 inch quarter chunks. Place the chunks in a colander and toss them with a pinch of salt or two. Place the colander over a bowl and allow the cumbers to stand for 20 minutes. After salting, remove the cucumbers from the colander and pat dry with clean paper towels, add to a salad bowl and set aside.

Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Pour the shrimp onto the baking sheet and drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Toss the shrimp in the oil and spread them out on the baking sheet. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.

Roast the shrimp in the oven for 5-7 minutes, until pink. Cool the shrimp on the baking sheet.

Meanwhile, chop the avocado in 3/4 inch chunks. Add the avocado, minced garlic, chopped mint leaves, cilantro and chives into the salad bowl with the cucumber chunks. Pour the lime juice and 1 tablespoon olive oil over the salad and toss well to coat. Taste, and adjust with alt and pepper as needed.

Cover and place in the refrigerator and chill until ready to serve. Garnish with avocado slices and cilantro sprigs, if desired.

Cook’s Notes:
Cucumbers, with their delicate flavor and translucent flesh by nature are very watery. For the most part, it you are planning to combine them with any other ingredients, use the best variety of seedless cucumbers available to you.

Then, you must salt them to draw out as much liquid as possible. If you skip this step, a puddle of near-flavorless liquid will form quickly at the bottom of your salad bowl, your dip or soup will separate like curdled mayonnaise.

But if you can only find the kind with seeds, make sure, you must eviscerate them, cut them open length wise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Why, you may ask? Well, cucumber seeds, tend to springy, and evasive, will ruin the texture of any salad, soup, or dip.

To salt cucumbers, begin by lining a colander with paper towels, add the cut up cucumbers to the colander and light salt them. Allow them to stand for 20 to 25 minutes, then remove from the colander and pat dry with paper towels and you are good to go to use them as you please in your recipes.

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Squid Ink Tonnarelli with Clams

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Squid ink or cuttlefish ink, is that one special ingredient that gives homemade pasta a mild briny taste of sea without being too “fishy”.  Squid ink tonnarelli paired with fresh clams and the sweetness of the skillet fried shishito  chili peppers dressed in a light cream, makes for a tantalizing dish with a dramatic presentation that will surely impress your dinner guest.

Serves 4

Ingredients:
10 to 15 fresh shishito peppers
1 teaspoon olive oil
Kosher salt, to taste
A squeeze of lemon juice
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
6 tablespoons dry white wine
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 dozen little neck clams, scrubbed
1 pound squid ink tonnarelli (click here for the recipe)
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:

For the Peppers:
Heat the olive oil over medium high heat in a large cast iron skillet until oil is shimmering. Add the peppers and cook them, tossing and turning them frequently until they blister, 10 to 15 minutes. When done, remove them from the skillet toss them with sea salt and add a squeeze of fresh lemon. Slice and set aside to cool.

For the Sauce:
In a Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium low heat. Add the garlic, parsley and crushed red pepper and cook until the garlic is golden, 1 minute. Add the wine, cream, salt, white pepper and bring to a boil over moderately high heat. Add the clams, cover and cook for 5 to 8 minutes; as the clams open, transfer them to a covered bowl and set aside. Continue to simmer until the sauce is reduced to a thin consistency, 8 to 10 minutes.

For the Pasta:
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook, stirring frequently, until al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain reserving 3/4 cup of the cooking water. Add the pasta to the Dutch oven. Stir in the cooking water over low heat, tossing until the pasta is al dente, 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the clams and shishito peppers to the pasta, garnish with parsley and serve.

Cook’s Notes:
Squid ink can be purchased on-line at various gourmet specialty shops such as La Tienda.

If time is of the essence or it making your own pasta is just too intimidating, you can also use store bought squid ink pasta that can be found in most local grocery stores and supermarkets. Several handmade dried varieties of squid ink pasta can also be purchasedfrom on-line stores to make for a quick and easy meal in no time.

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Pan-Seared Lamb Chops

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Looking for a quick yet elegant entree for a dinner party? Well, these easy lamb chops are just the ticket. Pair them up with a few sides likes mashed potatoes and sauteed green beans to complete the dish. And for the finishing touch, pour a full-bodied Merlot or Pinot Noir.

Enjoy!

Serves 4
Ingredients:
For the Lamb Chops:
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons fresh garlic, minced
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, minced
2 teaspoons fresh parsley, minced
2 teaspoons fresh oregano, minc
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
8 lamb rib chops

For the Mini Fried Blooming Onions:
20 pearl onions
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 Tablespoons water
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon paprika
kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, taste
Vegetable oil, enough to fill skillet to 1-inch depth; more for a deep fryer

For the Caramelized  Pearl Onions:
10-12 whole pearl white onions, skins removed
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly-ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:
In a large bowl, mix together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, cumin and herbs. Season the lamb chops lightly with salt and pepper. Add  the chops to the olive oil mixture. Using tongs to  turning  each chop to coat completely.  Cover and  set aside to marinate, for 15-30 minutes.

To make the Blooming onions, preheat the oven to 170°F.

Cut tops of pearl onions, then slice top down (being careful not to cut all the way through) 3 times to form six sections of the onion. Using your fingers, gentley separate onion sections.

Place the onions in cold water to allow the petals to further separate. Soak for about 10 minutes and remove and drain on paper towels.

In a shallow bowl, mix eggs with water. In a separate shallow bowl, mix flour with garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika. Season with salt and pepper. Stir together until combined.

Dredge onions first in egg and then in flour mixture. S

In a large, high-sided skillet or a deep fat fryer, heat oil to about 350°F. Fry onions in batches, until they are golden. Place on a paper-towel lined plate to drain.Season with salt and set aside in the oven until ready to serve.

Cook the Pearl onions. Heat the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions begin to soften and turn golden brown, about 5 minutes. Turn the heat down to low, and continue cooking, covered, for another 5-10 minutes until the onions are a deep, rich golden color, but still hold their shapes.

Meanwhile, heat a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. When the skillet is hot, add the chops to the skillet and cook to desired doneness, about 3-4 minutes per side for medium-rare. Serve warm alongside the onions.

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