Mmmm – it’s Memorial Day weekend!

Erie blooms in May. Not that it doesn’t have its moment in other months. But it seems that after har-umphing through February, March, and April, the community finally starts to shed the gray skies and attitude and come to life again.

Don’t get me wrong, nothing wrong with hunkering down through snow, sleet, and dismal rain. We all need a rest in order to burst forth with renewed energy.

An example of this is my schedule in the past week. Last Friday, May 19, I was handing out cherry cheesecake parfaits at Gallery Night hosted by the Erie Art Museum. I was hanging out in the basement with filmmaker Tom Weber, who was screening his new film about Erie, and entrepreneur and caterer Tammy Lyn Fox, who is planning to transform the former Greg’s Place in the basement into a kitchen incubator for those starting out in the food business – from bakers to spice makers.

The basement started filling at 7 p.m. and steamed in until the last cheesecake disappeared just before 10 p.m.

Down Home Days, sponsored by Karen Duran of Duran’s Farm Fresh Foods in Waterford, kicked off Saturday with the Chef’s Cast Iron Challenge. Eight teams volunteered to cook mystery ingredients over an outdoor fire in several categories (fruit, protein, etc.). The mystery ingredients were revealed hours before they need to present dishes to judges. I was one of the judges in the fruit category, where the secret ingredient was dates. These teams were outstanding, coming up with dishes such as chocolate baklava, jerked chicken and dates, stuffed pork chops, scones (mmmmm), and three separate dishes from the Lucky Charms.  Swine Dining, with the superb pork chops, won overall.

On Monday, I headed down to Meadville to meet with Chauteau Christine owner Christine Yamrick, who left her newspaper job to follow her heart with her divine retail space in Meadville and Indiana, Pa. There’s something for just about everyone here – from gifts, to beautiful bags, to clothing, to jewelry. Think preppy meets bling. And more. Christine will be a vendor at the wonderful Barber National Institute Ladies Only Luncheon in November. The lunch is a major fundraiser for BNI, which helps so many special needs children in our community (including my own).

I rejoined Fox on Tuesday for the Mercy Center for Women’s Purse and Pearl luncheon at the Bayfront Convention Center. Fox, who owns Taste of Zion catering, was selling her lovely compound butters. Trust me, her Mediterranean and Garlic Parmesan are to die for (I’m a savory person on this front), along with her new Thai Curry (red). But if you are a pancake, scone, or English muffin fan – she has plenty of options, such as orange cranberry, cinnamon, maple pecan, etc. All kinds of entrepreneurial women were selling before the luncheon, such as Park Lane’s Valerie Weaver (aka the mall’s fashionista on the local news), Simply Scarves Janet Kassir, Studio Z’s Sue Zimmerman, and so many more.

On Wednesday, I was meeting with the lovely Keegan, from South One, and Luke, from A. Caplan Co. Keegan is a kitchen designer with extreme talent, having transformed my parents’ kitchen from dull to breathtaking with a giant lake view. Anyone who loves to cook knows about Caplan in Waterford, but many not know they also work in conjunction with South One on kitchen work. These two talented individuals are helping me with the kitchen planning for Meadballs, my dinner delivery service that will start this summer.

Later Wednesday, the snowbirds (aka my parents, M&D – Mike and Del or Mom and Dad) returned. So winter is officially over.

Thursday I was in Urbaniak Brothers, the butcher shop with the best meats, to stock up for the Memorial Day weekend. You can’t go wrong with anything there, but I have kale growing so some hot Italian sausage was just the ticket for a quick dinner. All I did was grab 2 handfuls of kale, 2 cloves of garlic, a half pound of sausage, some olive oil, and some cooked pasta. I had made macaroni salad earlier in the week, and instead of tossing the water out, I cooked what was left of some shells. Once drained, I refrigerated until I needed them.

The Russian Troika Festival starts this afternoon at the Church of the Nativity Community Center, 109 German Street, and runs through Sunday at 9 p.m.

Happy Memorial Day weekend. Let the summer begin!

XOXOXO

Marnie

Marnie@meadballs.com

Print Recipe
Kale and Sausage Pasta
This is one of those recipes that you can play with. Add more kale, substitute chard, or spinach. I used hot Italian sausage, but you can use any kind you like.
Course dinner
Cuisine American, Italian
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course dinner
Cuisine American, Italian
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. In a large pot of salted water, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain. See note below about cooking kale with pasta if it is older or tougher.
  2. In a large nonstick skillet (large enough to hold the pasta), add olive oil over medium to medium-high heat. Then add garlic and saute for about 1 minutes. Add sausage (casings removed) and crumble with your spatula. Cook until no longer pink. If you kale is young, add now and cook for about 2 minutes. Then stir in pasta (or pasta and blanched kale) and stir to combine over heat. Remove from heat and serve.
Recipe Notes

If you are using a more mature kale leaf: I drop the kale into the boiling water with the pasta during the last 3 minutes of cooking. Then drain with the pasta and stir the whole mess in with the sausage and garlic and olive oil.

Share this Recipe

Add Heat to Cool Days with Soup

Cold and rainy days call for soup. As a kid that meant the kind with the red and white label, preferably served with a grilled cheese sandwich.

My brother Kevin liked tomato. I was a chicken noodle or chicken and stars girl. My father, as we got older, made soup for Sunday night dinners. He would slave over a perfect French onion or a Manhattan (tomato-based) clam chowder. It was an all-day affair that typically involved making the stock and then the soup. Which is great if you have the time because the taste can’t be topped. French onion soup out of a can or an envelope just isn’t real – even if you do try to put the lovely cheesy crouton on top, which is doing nothing more than hiding a bowl of sodium pretending to be flavor.

I will get off my stockpot now. Sometimes you have neither the time nor inclination to spend all day making soup. In that case, this Thai Coconut Squash/Sweet Potato Soup is for you. I made it with a roasted sweet potato and acorn squash. You can do canned pumpkin (not pie mix), roasted butternut squash, or all roasted sweet potato.

I started by cutting an acorn squash in half, removing the seeds, and placing it in a nonstick roasting pan along with a large sweet potato, pierced, and placing it in a 350-degree oven for 45 minutes. If you are making sweet potatoes or squash for another dish, just throw a couple of extras in so you have leftovers to make this soup.

The soup requires no broth, just water. You will need a can of coconut milk – I prefer the full fat kind. The Thai red curry paste is essential. You can find the paste in the Asian food aisle at most supermarkets. I started with just 1 1/2 tablespoons, but eventually added another tablespoon. Err on the side of less because you can always add more.

Print Recipe
Thai Coconut Squash/Sweet Potato Soup
Course soup
Cuisine American, Asian
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Servings
Ingredients
Course soup
Cuisine American, Asian
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a nonstick roasting pan, place large sweet potato and halved acorn squash, cut side down. Roast for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
  2. In the same baking pan, deglaze any drippings from the squash with about 1/2 cup of water over medium heat until almost evaporated. If the drippings are too burned to be tasty, skip this and just rinse the pan out and go to the next step.
  3. Add coconut oil to the pan or a large saucepan over medium heat. When melted, add the onions and cook until soft and tender, about 7 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add Thai curry paste and stir in until totally incorporated (about 30 seconds).
  4. Scoop out sweet potato and squash into the onion mixture and mash together (use a potato masher if you need to). This will be thick. Add 1 quart of water and stir to combine. If really thick (like mashed potatoes thick), then add remaining water. If the mixture is still very thick (this will depend on the size of your potato and squash), then add more water about 1/2 cup at a time. Bring the mixture to a simmer.
  5. Remove from heat. Stir in coconut milk and lime juice. Use an immersion blender, or, work in batches in a blender, to puree the soup until smooth. Garnish with coconut flakes.
Share this Recipe

Tips for Safe Thanksgiving Dinner

About 3,000 people die every year from food-borne illnesses, and more than 100,000 report being sick. That’s the first thing the Erie County Department of Health hammers home during an educational session to prepare food-industry employees to become certified as managers.

First, do no harm.

Food safety certification is one of the first steps to owning my own food truck. Most people think it starts with the recipes, which is a key part of your business plan (and the health department wants to see them, too). But a failed inspection, or, worse yet someone gets sick, and that business is done.

Food safety isn’t glamorous. Much of the conversation is around hand washing and bacteria. There’s a fair amount of discussion around “poo.”  Mainly I’m learning about all the things you don’t see as a customer that can hurt you. Gloves only protect if the hands of the person putting them on are clean, and the person wearing them doesn’t touch anything that can cross-contaminate your food by touching anything like, say, his or her nose or the cash drawer. Hand sanitizer, which our instructor demonstrated using a black light, does very little to clean your hands.

The lesson is that Mom was right. Wash your hands with soap and water. Rinse. Dry using a disposable towel. Repeat frequently.

Time and temperature are also killers. More likely, they are the reason you think you’ve got a 24-hour stomach bug after a potluck. Cooked pasta, rice, beans, and potatoes cannot sit out unrefrigerated. Once you introduce water, or heat in the case of potatoes, you have a ticking bacterial time bomb. They must be maintained at 135 degrees, or, once they dip below that, they need to get down to 41 degrees within 6 hours. And that’s not just in the 41-degree refrigerator after 6 hours. The pasta, rice, beans, and/or potatoes must be 70 degrees within 2 hours and 41 degrees when a thermometer registers in the middle within 4 more.

Homemade Roasted Thanksgiving Day Turkey with all the Sides
Homemade Roasted Thanksgiving Day Turkey with all the Sides, (Thinkstock photo)

So, all you home cooks … with Thanksgiving coming up … the turkey, potatoes, gravy, corn, stuffing, green beans, et al, cannot be left on the counter in the danger zone (below 135 degrees) for more than 4 hours. After that, into the trash those leftovers must go. And you can’t put the whole kit and kaboodle in the fridge while still hot. That will raise the temp of your fridge, risking the spoilage of everything else in there. Use a cooler to chill first, then refrigerate.

Don’t blame the mayo if your make yourself a turkey sandwich with all the trimmings at midnight and then are hugging the porcelain god the next day. Commercial mayo has a pH outside the danger zone. The most likely culprits are the potatoes, turkey, or stuffing (even if cooked outside the turkey because of the moisture content).

Given all the info flying at us, I decided pizza was what was on the menu for our dinner. Although you can’t leave cut tomatoes out any longer because the acid content has been reduced to account for America’s problem with acid reflux, it isn’t a dish I’m going to have around for 4 hours.

I watched a WQLN-TV show with Lidia Bastianich making pizza and I love her sauce. It’s simple and full of flavor. So I fired up the grill and made the sauce while the Big Green Egg was getting ready.

Here’s my riff on her pizza sauce. 

Print Recipe
Pizza Sauce
Easy to make without added sugar or artificial ingredients. When so few ingredients need to star, the sauce needs to shine.
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Italian
Servings
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Italian
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Crush the tomatoes with your hands into a bowl. Pour crushed tomatoes into a strainer over another bowl and drain off extra liquid. You can use the liquid for another recipe or discard.
  2. Place drained crush tomatoes in bowl and add remaining ingredients. Stir. Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes (while grill is getting hot).
Recipe Notes

Adapted from Lidia Bastianich

Share this Recipe

 

Squash’s Savory Side

img_4734The change of seasons can be measured by the moon, the landscape (trees turning color), and my furniture. When the sun comes later in the morning and sets earlier in the evening, I spend more time inside. And when I’m inside, I stare at the furniture. And think of ways my home could be more comfortable.

I could spend lazy Sundays reading the New York Times, which I do. But I’m also eyeballing the chair no one sits in, including me. And, instead of contemplating the debate between the two presidential candidates, I am thinking that the leather recliner needs to move to the basement. And I need to call the Erie City Mission to deal with the rest of the rejects that are in the basement.

What I really should be doing is working on a business plan to open a bakery or cafe, but instead I’m procrastinating. If, perhaps, I find the right flow in the house, then, perhaps, the business plan can just be channeled from the universe through my fingers and onto the computer. Failing that, I move furniture. And bake.

I’ve got a few pumpking/squash items yet still to test. I had the most divine pumpkin bread pudding with a maple ice cream in Maine that I am trying to replicate. That recipe will be coming once I finish tasting. But the cooler temps remind me that pumpkin isn’t just for sweets. It can take on savory flavors just as easily as sweet. One of my favorites is to serve chile over roasted sweet potatoes in their jackets or over a pile of roasted and mashed butternut, acorn or pumpkin squash.

The Italians pair pumpkin and sausage, or zucca e salsiccia, with pasta. The faint sweetness of the squash with the Italian sausage is perfectly complementary. It’s a fall favorite around our house. You can make it will canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie) or roast a pie pumpkin, acorn squash, or butternut squash. Or bake all three if you have them courtesy of your CSA, scoop, and stash in a container in the fridge. This way I have plenty of roasted squash on hand for any of my culinary needs because whether I’m baking one or three, it takes the same amount of time and cleanup (very little if you use a nonstick pan or foil).

Mangiamo!!

XOXOXO

Marnie

marnie@marniemeadmedia.com

Print Recipe
Pasta with Pumpkin and Sausage
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Italian
Servings
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Italian
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. In a heavy-bottomed pot large enough to hold the sauce and the pasta, heat olive oil and add sausage. Saute over medium to medium-high heat until it is browned.
  2. Remove sausage from pan, leaving enough oil in to saute the onion and the garlic. If there is too much grease, just drain until you have about 2 tablespoons again. Add the onion and cook until translucent, then add the garlic, cinnamon, and sage. Cook until fragrant.
  3. Return sausage to the pan of medium heat. Add the chicken stock and stir to get up any of the browned bits off the bottom of the pan. If the stock cooks down too quickly, add additional stock.
  4. Stir in pumpkin puree and cream. Stir until combined. Remove from heat. Taste and adjust seasonings for salt and pepper. This should sit for about 15 minutes to allow the flavors to mingle.
  5. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions. With about 2 to 3 minutes left of the pasta cooking time, add the kale to the pot with the boiling water and pasta. Once the pasta is cooked, reserve about 1 cup of the pasta water before draining. Drain pasta.
  6. Return sauce pot to the stove over medium-low heat. Add pasta and stir to combine. If sauce is too thick, add some of the pasta water.
  7. Serve in bowls. Pass cheese and pepper flakes. This will serve 4-6, depending on appetites.
Share this Recipe