Thursday, June 24, 2010

child at heart

Summer officially arrived a few days ago. It did not sneak through the screen door.....but slammed its way in, WAY ahead of schedule.

Yessiree, we're hitting record highs for June, here in Dallas.

Hot summers remind me of "the Betsy books" I read as a child. The stories revolved around a small group of neighborhood buddies and their mischievous adventures. Like the time they tried to fry an egg on the sidewalk.... Of course, I went out and tried it too.

In another story, someone in the group was having a birthday party and it was announced there would be a watermelon-seed contest. The kid who ended up with the most seeds from his or her slice of watermelon, would be declared the winner. That was a big deal back then.

This one guy got smart and began eating as much watermelon as he could for days or weeks before the party, saving the seeds to assure himself a win. Problem was, he had the wrong color seeds tucked in his pocket. Cheater!

These were the books that first made me consider there really might be something to this reading business. Paper and ink put me by Betsy's side and I played with her and the gang all summer long.

Admittedly, it's been decades of summers since I read those stories. I now fry eggs in an All Clad skillet but don't let that fool you; I'm still well prepared for a hot, playful summer. So, bring it on July; I double dare you !

And hey June, don't let that screen door hit you on your way out..........

Watermelon and Red Onion Salad

half of a medium red onion
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
5 to 6 cups watermelon, cut into chunks
salt & pepper
black sesame seeds (optional)

Make an oil and vinegar dressing by mixing 1 measure of vinegar to 3 measures olive oil. Whisk together and set aside. (A ratio of 1 to 3 tablespoons should dress six cups of melon.)

Peel the onion half and slice it very thin. In a small bowl, cover the onion slices with cold water and allow them to sit for about 20 minutes, changing the water several times. Drain, then pat the onions dry. Return them to their bowl (also dried) and pour the dressing over them, stirring to coat. Set aside.

Cut the watermelon into chunks and place them in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the onions to the watermelon. Gently toss together. Tear fresh mint leaves over the salad and toss again. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.............just for fun!

Highly Recommended Summer Reading List
(All books by Carolyn Haywood, 1898-1990)
"B" is for Betsy
Betsy's Busy Summer
Betsy and The Boys
Betsy and Billy
Back to School with Betsy

and many others......

Monday, June 21, 2010

red in the face

No Romas for me. If I lived in Naples near all of those San Marzanos, I'd surely change my mind, but here, I prefer small, red, vine-ripe ones.

There's nothing like a tomato sandwich is there? Toast bread, slather with mayo, pile on the sliced tomatoes, add lots of salt and pepper... Oh man.......

We can't get enough of them here at 3906, so tomatoes are always on the grocery list. The other day, Spoke went to the market for a few things we needed. It was a short list and at the top I had written:

2 cluster tomatoes


I got 2 clusters OF tomatoes. So, I ditched the dinner sandwiches and made sauce.

Red In the Face Tomato Sauce with Spaghetti

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 or 5 cluster (vine ripe) tomatoes, washed and chopped (No, I don't peel them.)
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
salt & pepper
water (preferably salted, pasta water)
2 large sprigs of fresh basil
8 ounces dried spaghetti

This is a super quick sauce but it relies on tomatoes and fresh basil. If you don't have basil, don't make it. If you do, it will take you just minutes and it will be delicious.

Put a large pot of water on to boil.

In a saute pan, heat the olive oil with the garlic cloves. Continue smashing the cloves now and then to release their flavor.

Add the tomatoes. Salt and pepper them. Cook about five minutes then keep warm.

When the water is boiling, add a tablespoon or more of salt. Stir. Drop the spaghetti and cook according to package directions, but ONLY until al dente.

When the spaghetti is halfway cooked, add about 1/4 cup of pasta water to the tomatoes and let them simmer while the spaghetti finishes cooking, adding more water as needed to keep them moist and bubbling. Remove the garlic cloves.

When the pasta is ready, drain it, or use tongs, and transfer it to the sauce. Season with salt and pepper, then stir the spaghetti until it is coated with sauce.

Tear fresh basil leaves all over, give another stir, and serve with Parmigiano Reggiano.
serves two

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

ladies who only lunch

Truth be told, I hope to one day have many FROM 3906 readers. But for now, I'm happy with you occasional few.
I write but it's not for readership. It's about The Quiet. It's about being alone with my thoughts, some of which make their way to this blog. It's cathartic.
I've always needed time alone. I've always enjoyed time alone. The best place? A table for one.
I'm not talking lunch, when you might grab a cup of soup or a salad before rushing off. I'm talking a meal.
Sitting with a glass of wine, time, void of conversation, slows down. You can work out any cobwebs currently spinning, and the people-watching is always great.
So why am I the lone diner? If there is another, they've stuck their nose in a book. Why? Okay, maybe they're at that really juicy part and can't put it down, but I don't think so....
Don't get me wrong. Dining with Kevin can't be beat. We may get all gussied-up for Stephan Pyles or be out and spontaneously stop for our favorite Thai rice. I love all of our meals together.
But still, The Quiet matters. It's what really feeds me.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large sweet yellow onion, chopped
2 bunches asparagus, washed, lower stalks peeled, cut into chunks
1 large baking potato, peeled and cut into chunks
salt & pepper
a few grinds of fresh nutmeg
7 cups vegetable stock
2 cups water
In a large stockpot, saute the onion in the olive oil until it's soft and blonde. Add the asparagus and potato, season with salt and pepper, (don't be shy) and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring often to prevent sticking. If it should, just moisten with a little more oil. Add several grinds of fresh nutmeg and stir.
Cover the vegetables with the stock and water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 40 minutes or until the vegetables are very soft. Remove from the heat and allow to cool a little.
Ladle a few cupfuls at a time, into a blender and process until smooth. Transfer each to a new, smaller pot. Reheat, tasting for seasoning.
Serve on top of a scoop of cooked rice, with a dollop of creme fraiche, or plain.
romaine lettuce
a jar of hearts of palm
green peas, fresh or frozen
oilve oil
one lemon
salt and pepper
In a small saucepan, bring water to a boil. You'll need just enough water to cover the peas. Drop the peas, about a half cup, into the water, stir a bit and then remove the pan from the heat. Allow to sit for five minutes, then drain.
Rinse and pat dry, one or two hearts of palm. Slice lengthwise into quarters, then chop across the width, into pieces about the size of the peas. Set aside.
In a salad bowl, tear a serving of romaine lettuce into bite size pieces. Add the hearts of palm and the peas. Drizzle with olive oil and gently toss to coat all of the ingredients. Salt and pepper to taste.
Cut the lemon in half and give it a good squeeze over the salad. Once again, toss to coat.
{If you prefer, you can make a dressing of three parts olive oil to one part lemon juice, to pour over the salad.}

Friday, June 11, 2010


For Elizabeth

Monday, June 7, 2010


Say nighty-night and kiss me..........

You know it, right?
A line from Dream A Little Dream Of Me, made famous by Louis, Ella, Doris Day and later, Mama Cass. But who is that singing it on Bonnie Ruth's website? (

I was checking out the cafe's menu when I first heard the brief clip. I really liked it and although I wanted to know who recorded it, I can't say that I lost any sleep over not knowing. Not for a day anyway.

Then there I was in the shower, singing that song. Cooking, still singing that song. Driving around town, yes, still. So, who is it? Someone, please tell me before I go mad!

Liking the menu, I stopped by the restaurant, wanting to check it out as a possible choice for a small birthday celebration. Loved it. It's got a great cafe vibe and a casual sense about it. I settled in at the bar.

I asked the nice bartender if he knew who recorded the song on their website. He didn't but he called someone in management who said Madeleine Peyroux which I knew was a very wrong guess. So, I had some pommes frites with a crisp Riesling while I thought about how to solve this maddening, little puzzle.

After a second Riesling and a bowl of moules mariniere, I realized it was time to ask Beth for help. (She's a friend I can send a birthday card to, claiming that we'll forever be friends, knowing, cross my heart and hope to die, that it is true.)

Beth not only has one of those super-smart phones but she knows how to use it.

I owe her. Readers, it is.................................The Beautiful South.

Whew! I'm going to sleep well tonight.

Stars shining bright above you
Night breezes seem to whisper 'I love you'
Birds singin' in the sycamore tree
Dream a little dream of me

Say nighty-night and kiss me
Just hold me tight and tell me you'll miss me
While I'm alone and blue as can be
Dream a little dream of me

Stars fading but I linger on dear
Still craving your kiss
I'm longing to linger till dawn dear
Just saying this

Sweet dreams till sunbeams find you
Sweet dreams that leave all worries behind you
But in your dreams whatever they be
Dream a little dream of me

(Wilbur Schwandt, Fabian Andre, Gus Kahn)

Steamed Mussels

12 to 16 mussels
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 lemon, washed and quartered
2 tablespoons chopped garlic, divided
1/4 teaspoon or more red pepper flakes, divided
1/2 to 1 cup white wine
3 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
Keep the mussels in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Wash them, scrubbing each under water to release any sand particles. (I use a toothbrush.) Remove any beard. Place in a clean dish and return to the refrigerator.
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large, lidded, saute pan. Add the lemon, half of the garlic and half of the red pepper flakes. Just as the garlic begins to turn blonde, add the wine, stir the mixture, and bring the heat up to medium high.
Add the mussels and cover. Cook about 5 to 7 minutes or until all of them have opened. Sprinkle with the rest of the garlic, red pepper flakes and parsley, adding a few grinds of black peppercorns. Give a quick stir and serve.
Discard any mussels that don't open.

Friday, June 4, 2010

egg mcmenig

A week doesn't fly by that I haven't had a sandwich.
Here's the first of many likely to be posted. Weeknight fare---extraordinaire.

Egg McMenig

an English muffin
a slice of cheese
one large egg
sea salt
black pepper
fresh tarragon

Allow a slice of cheese to come to room temperature.

Toast an English muffin. Spread however much mayonnaise you like, on the bread. (Homemade would be great but let's be honest. Do you have freshly made mayonnaise in your refrigerator at the moment?)

Place the cheese on the top half of the warm muffin so it will begin to melt.

Place a pat of butter in a small fry pan over medium low heat. When melted, gently crack an egg into the pan. Cook until the white of the egg is firm, then carefully flip the egg over. Remove the pan from the heat and sprinkle the egg with vinegar.

Place the egg on the bottom half of the muffin. Season it with salt and pepper, and scatter freshly chopped tarragon leaves on top. Put halves together and slice.

Three ingredients send this sandwich over the top:
vinegar, sea salt and tarragon.

I keep a bottle of pepper-vinegar on hand but you can use any type you'd like.
Use a good 'finishing' sea salt. You will notice the difference.
One sprig of fresh tarragon will give you enough leaves for two sandwiches.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

honey, what's for dinner?

Salmon with a Honey Mustard Glaze

For 2 six-ounce salmon fillets:

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Creole mustard
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons olive oil
a big pinch of salt
a few grinds of black pepper
several dashes of cayenne pepper

Make the glaze by whisking the ingredients together until emulsified. You may be tempted to add more oil but don't; you'll be sauteing the fillets in olive oil.

Rinse the salmon and pat dry. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Spread a small amount of glaze in a shallow dish. Set the fillets in it, skin side down. Cover the flesh with the rest of the glaze, allowing it to flow down the sides of the fish. Marinate for several minutes.

Preheat a skillet until it is very hot. Add enough olive oil to generously cover the bottom of the pan and to coat the sides if you swirl it. Lay the fillets in the skillet, skin side down. They will splatter!

Watch the color of the fish change to opaque as it cooks from the bottom up. When the fillets appear one-third to one-half cooked, about five minutes, gently turn them over. (The skin may have separated from the flesh already. If so, just remove it before turning them.) Cook for another minute or two. Serve flesh side up.

Great with a Caesar salad.