Monday, July 31, 2006

Quick Cioppino

I wanted to use up some shrimp and fish from the freezer, and most of these ingredients were already in the pantry. For the salsa, I used up the remaining fire-roasted salsa from Costco. The recipe did not call for it, but all the cioppino recipes I've seen in the past called for fennel, so I added half a sliced head for the added licorice undertone. Instead of the bagged frozen peppers mix, I used two green bell peppers chopped into large chunks. There was just enough Kendall Jackson sauvignon blanc, and although it's a little pricey to be throwing into a stew, it gave the sauce just the right amount of acidity needed to go with the tomatoes and seafood. I used only about 2/3 of an 8-oz. bottle of clam juice, as I find it to be a bit overwhelming, and made of the difference with some water. Fresh sea scallops along with leftover frozen shrimp and cod from Trader Joe's will be added just before serving. This will avoid overcooking the fish and making it tough. I had intended to buy some clams to add in too, but just six of them came to almost $6.50 at Stater Bros. market, so I gave them back to the guy behind the counter. This has a real kick of spice from the salsa, and I forgot and added a dash of crushed pepper flakes; so this is good and spicy. Lemon wedges on the side if needed complete the dish.

Usually we'd have chunks of buttered sourdough or French bread, but we're trying to cut down on the carbs for a while; hence, the sugar-free strawberry Jello for dessert with quartered strawberries added. Perhaps just a splash of fresh cream on top???

Shortcut Cioppino

Recipe courtesy of Dinners in a Dish or a Dash by Jean Anderson (William Morrow)

Yield: Makes 4 to 6 servings

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups coarsely chopped fresh or frozen onions (about 2 medium-large yellow onions)
Half of a 1-pound bag frozen bell pepper stir-fry mix (red, green, and yellow peppers; do not thaw)
4 large garlic cloves, minced
2 large whole bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
1 teaspoon dried basil, crumbled
One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes, with their liquid
Two 1-pound jars chunky salsa (as mild or hot as you like)
Two 8-ounce bottles clam juice
1 cup dry white wine such as a Verdicchio or Soave
1 pound boned and skinned halibut, haddock, or cod
1 pound shelled and deveined medium-size raw shrimp or 1/2 pound each shrimp and lump crab or sea scallops, these halved if large
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat oil in large kettle over moderately high heat 2 minutes. Add onions, stir-fry mix, garlic, bay leaves, oregano, and basil and cook, stirring often, until onions are golden, 8 to 10 minutes.
Add tomatoes, salsa, clam juice, and wine; bring to simmering, adjust heat so mixture bubbles gently, and cook uncovered just until flavors meld, about 20 minutes.

Add halibut and shrimp and cook uncovered just until shrimp turn pink and fish almost flakes, about 5 minutes.

Remove bay leaves, season to taste with salt and pepper, then serve with rough country bread.

Copyright © 2006 Television Food Network, G.P., All Rights Reserved

Friday, July 28, 2006

Quick Trip to the Beach

Tuesday morning Eddie and I set off for a short trip to Laguna Beach. Our friends who recently moved to Arkasas are housesitting in the Temple Hills area of town, and we were lucky enough to be invited down for a couple of days. I hadn't been over that way in about seven years, so I had to brush up on the directions. The new toll roads through Riverside and Orange counties are fantastic. They cut out a huge chunk of distance and save a lot of time too. Anyway, the house we stayed at is way up in the hills with a panoramic ocean view from the front terrace.

We took a ride in the afternoon to San Onofre State Beach, which is in the shadows of the nuclear power plant. It was quite a walk down to the beach, which made the very comfortable water even more inviting. Just right, and not so cold as it is up the coast.

For dinner, Stan made a farfalle with a walnut pesto, which we really enjoyed out on the front patio area. The fog had rolled in and it would have been too cool on the back terrace.

On our way out of town the next day, Eddie and I had lunch at Johnny Rocket's. Two double burgers, two malts and an order of fries came to almost $33, but I must say the burgers were the biggest I've ever seen and I couldn't finish mine. So I guess for a one-time thing it's okay to splurge.

It was nice returning to the desert, even though the heat and humidity have not abated. The swimming pool temperature hit an unbelievable 100 degrees. All we had to do was turn on the bubbles in the spa, no extra heat needed.

We're looking forward to less humidity, which is forcasted for the beginning of next week, and it can't come a day too soon for my taste.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Got Corn?

The other day we picked up a dozen ears of corn from Costco. Also, I've had a hankering for corn chowder for a while, so since we're going to the beach tomorrow for a couple days, and the corn won't wait any longer, I made a batch of chowder this morning. I'll put it in the fridge, and it will taste even better after a couple days' sitting. The roasting step with butter sweetens up the kernels even more and gives a nice toasty flavor to the finished chowder. I added a pinch of cayenne pepper in the pureeing step to give a bit of a kick, and I'll re-season just before reheating and serving. Also, I'm not going to add the cream until that time, as cream once boiled may curdle. Yuck!

Notice that this is not high in calories, even with the cream; so go ahead and enjoy a big bowlful. A nice salad would complement this just fine, perhaps tomatoes and zucchinis from the garden, both of which should be plentiful just about this time of summer.

I got this recipe from the Simi Winery website.

-- 10 to 12 ears of corn, unshucked -- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter -- 4 large garlic cloves, unpeeled -- 4 cups low-sodium chicken stock -- 2 cups water -- 1 large baking potato, peeled, cut into eighths -- 4 teaspoons cornmeal -- 1 cup heavy cream -- Salt and pepper -- Basil oil and basil sprigs (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS: Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Pull back husk partway on each corn ear. Using all the butter, put a small piece inside each husk, replace husk, and place ears in a single layer on a baking sheet (or two). Scatter garlic around ears. Bake 20 minutes.
Let cool, then peel garlic and shuck corn. Scrape kernels from cobs and set aside 2 cups. Reserve 6 of the cobs.
Combine stock, water and 6 corn cobs in a large pot. (Cut cobs in half if necessary.) Add peeled garlic and potato. Simmer until potato is soft. Discard corn cobs.
Transfer mixture to food processor. Add corn kernels (except reserved 2 cups) and cornmeal; puree. Return puree to pot and stir in cream. Thin, if desired, with a little stock. Heat just to a boil. Stir in reserved corn kernels. Season with salt and pepper.
Serve immediately, garnishing, if desired, with a swirl of basil oil and a basil sprig.
Serves 8.
(c) Mary Evely, Simi Winery
PER SERVING: 295 calories, 6 g protein, 32 g carbohydrate, 18 g fat (11 g saturated), 57 mg cholesterol, 29 mg sodium, 4 g fiber.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Road Trip to Las Vegas and Tucson

Hello to everyone again. I've not posted in a while. The computer has been at Gateway for a repair, and then it was lost in the delivery system for over a week, but it finally arrived back home on Monday, and things are all loaded again and seem to work fine. Fingers Crossed!

After Demi died, we took off on a much-deserved roadtrip. It was great to get away, but it was filled with some sadness knowing that we would have no frantic hello's waiting for us when we returned home. Of course, we are now in no hurry to rush home to relieve a dogsitter.

Anyway, we headed up to Las Vegas for five days. The weather was nice and dry, hot of course, but we're used to it. One thing, though: smoke from the big Yucca Valley fire drifted directly over Vegas and that made for some beautiful sundowns and sunrises -- just like being on another planet.

Eddie and I don't gamble, so that's no big draw for us, but we do like to just relax and see what's going on around town.

One place I must pass on to everyone is Terrible's Casino at the corner of Flamingo and Paradise. The coffee shop upstairs near the bingo room is a real find. The menu is varied and priced right. If you lived in town, you'd be eating leftovers for lunch the next day, guaranteed. Between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. they have a late night breakfast menu which is not to be believed for the amount of food and the cheap prices. Do not miss this one.

Our friends Brian and Don who live in town told us if we liked the Wynn Hotel that we'd flip over the new Red Rock Resort. It's on the far west side of town, way out on Charleston near the 215 Beltway highway. We drove out there midmorning and it looked like it wasn't even open. But it was and parts of the resort are still being worked on. We tried the buffet for an early lunch, it was quite good. I must say, though, that the Vegas buffets have all started to look and taste alike. So not bad, but not fabulous either. But you must go out there and see the place. It will knock your socks off!

On Friday we left early and drove to Tucson for a few days there. I had never driven that route before, U.S. 93, and I didn't know what to expect. A lot of U.S. highways are one lane each direction, but this was really nice. They're upgrading the road, even a new bridge over the Colorado to avoid having to cross the Hoover Dam. The scenery was spectacular and the road was very uncrowded. We especially were taken with the town of Wickenburg, AZ. Just like you'd expect a small town to look like, and it's only about 50 miles to central Phoenix.

When in Tucson, we ended up staying at a place called the Smuggler's Inn. Our usual place, the Radisson Suites, was fully booked, as were most other places, due to a Jehovah's Witness convention in town over the weeked. For $55 a night it was just fine, but the place had an eerie, not occupied and uncared-for feel to it. No complaints, though; it came with a daily cocktail and buffet breakfast, so it really was a bargain. When checking out, I asked the kid behind the desk, "What's up with this place? Is it being sold, or what?" And in a soft voice he said it had been sold and that the 31st of July is their last day. So that explained everything. Next time in Tucson the building will probably we bulldozed and an office already on its way to completion.

We were lucky enough to experience a real summertime monsoonal evening thunder and lightning storm. It was awesome!!

Palm Springs has had record-breaking heat, yes, even for us, and it's been a bit of a challenge. Yesterday's high was 120 degrees. Last night at 11:30 it was still 102 degrees! Today it's forecasted to be about the same, so I expect more indoor activities again.

We've been too hot to cook, so thank goodness for the freezer which is filled with enough goodies to last through World War III.

That's it for now, and I'll try to post more often.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Bad and Sad News

Our laptop went on the fritz and is being looked at by Gateway. It should be returned today or tomorrow. We've done a fair amount of cooking lately, but nothing worth mentioning. Heat-survival cooking -- cold foods, things made in the portable convection oven, the pressure cooker, etc.

The new Electolux fridge is working out. Since then, the Northland all-fridge in the garage started acting up. Sears took a look at it and estimated a new condenser would be about $900, and Northland Inc. sells new ones, same model, for about $1200. So we got another new fridge last week, and it should make a huge difference in our electiric bill. The old one rarely shut off, and the new one is off quite a bit.

Now for the bad news: we had to put our Schnauzer Demi down two weeks ago. We knew it was coming, but that didn't make it any easier. He was a great pet and friend for almost 15 years and we'll miss him terribly.

Going to Las Vegas next week for a little R & R after the ordeal of putting a friend down. As if it isn't hot enough here in Palm Springs!! Go figure.

More on our trip next week.