Friday, December 30, 2011

Happy New Year!

As I have said before, I read many, MANY blogs from around the world. I spend at least an hour everyday reading blogs about food, traditions, painting and genealogy.  Those are my interests, what can I say.
So often, a blog will be perfect....something that rings a bell, says exactly what I wish I had said....or teaches me something new
Today, I woke up to a new posting from Dianne Hales of Becoming Italian, Word by Word. In her blog, Dianne teaches us how to speak, or at least understand, the Italian language.  Her posting today explains how New Years came to be.....leave it to the Italians! (or should I say, to the Romans!) I hope you enjoy this excerpt from her blog.

Buon Anno! Happy New Year!

New Year’s Eve as we know it was an invention of the ancient Romans. In 153 B.C. they moved the start of the new year from the Spring equinox to January 1 and dedicated the first month of the year to Janus, the two-faced god of beginnings, who looks back toward the old year and ahead toward the new one.

For six days, Romans celebrated by hanging lights, preparing lavish banquets, and decorating their houses with boughs of greenery, including holly and mistletoe (considered magical plants because they bore fruit in the dead of winter). The Romans gave each other glass jars filled with dates and dried figs in honey so the new year would be sweet and full of good fortune. These offerings, called strenne from the Sabine goddess of prosperity, Strenia, were the predecessors of the presents we now exchange at Christmas.

Italians refer to New Year’s Eve by its liturgical name, la Festa di San Silvestro, the feast of St. Sylvester, a fourth-century pope. Traditionally families and friends share a huge dinner called il cenone (literally the big supper). Lentils, symbols of prosperity because they resemble coins, are almost always on the menu, often served with pork, another symbol of the richness of life.

Tuscans eat lentils with cotechino, a big pork sausage cut like coins. Italians in Bologna and Modena eat them with zampone, or pig’s trotter. In Piedmont, rice symbolizes money, so a cenone is sure to include risotto. Raisins, another symbol for coins, appear in desserts throughout the peninsula.

In a relatively recent tradition, couples give each gifts of red underwear—a color that wards off the malocchio (Evil Eye) and a symbol of love, prosperity, and fertility. Traditionally Italians wear these special undies only once and throw them away after New Year’s eve.

That’s not all that Italians toss out. In order to make room for the new, they once literally threw old brooms, dishes, even furniture out the window. (Kay here....can you say "Redecorating Time!") Regulations now prohibit this dangerous dumping, but the practice continues in some parts of Naples and the South.
After the evening feast, most Italian cities throw a big party under the stars with music, dancing, and fireworks. Italy’s equivalent of Times Square in New York is the Piazza del Popolo in Rome. Huge crowds gather for an outdoor concert and a magnificent midnight fireworks display. The favored drink is spumante or prosecco, Italian sparkling wine, for a toast (brindisi) when the clock strikes twelve.
Whether public or private, il Veglione di Capodanno (the New Year’s party) typically lasts all night. As they head home at the dawn of Capodanno (New Year’s Day), weary revelers watch the first sunrise—and look out for the first person they see in the newborn year. According to ancient traditions, an old man or a hunchbacked person carries good luck, while a child or a priest brings bad luck in the upcoming year.
Words and Expressions
Il conto alla rovescia -- the countdown to midnight (meno 10, meno 9, meno 8, meno 7 ...)
I botti di capodanno -- New year’s firecrackers and fireworks
“Anno nuovo, vita nuova” -- new Year, new life (let’s make a fresh start)
i buoni propositi per l’anno nuovo -- New Year resolutions, such as smettere di fumare (to stop smoking), mettersi a dieta (to go on a diet), and iscriversi in palestra (to join a gym).
Dianne Hales is the author of LA BELLA LINGUA: My Love Affair with Italian, the World's Most Enchanting Language.
Please visit her blog!

I suppose I should pass on one more recipe for the year. I've thought it over and had trouble narrowing it down to just one. It has to be a recipe that screams CELEBRATION! That made me remember the greatest New Year's Eve I ever had. It was just Arch and me, at home, fire in the fireplace, Ella Fitsgerald singing softly in the background, tv on mute waiting for the ball to drop. On our plates?  Arch's now famous Blackeyed Peas and warm corbread dripping with butter!  So, once again, here it is....the only way for me to celebrate New Year's Eve......
Arch's Blackeyed Peas with Ham Hocks

6 Servings

1 cup dried black-eyed peas
3 cups water
3 meaty ham hocks
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon salt
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
additional salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
· Sort the peas, removing any broken ones or rocks; rinse well and place in a large saucepan.
· Cover with water, bring to a boil, and boil for 10 minutes.
· Let the peas sit for at least 1 hour; drain.
· Return the peas to the pan and add the water;
· Bring the peas to a boil, turn down to a simmer, and cook until the peas are almost tender, 1-2 hours.
· Add the remaining ingredients and simmer covered until the beans are very soft and tender, checking periodically to make sure there is enough water.
· About 15 minutes before serving, remove the ham hocks from the mixture; remove the meat from the hocks, chop, and add back in to the peas.
· Taste for seasoning and add salt and freshly ground pepper if necessary.
· Simmer for about 10 more minutes, then serve.
Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

For those of you who know me well, you will laugh at this next recipe.  Those of you who do not know me personally will have to understand I am "addicted" to Cheetos.  When I saw this recipe on the Saveur Magazine's blog, I had to laugh. Can you imagine Brocolli with Cheetos? Me either, but here it is!

Broccoli with Cheetos

2 cups heavy cream
3 tbsp. minced garlic
2 tbsp. minced shallots
6 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 cups grated aged Gouda
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
Kosher salt, to taste
1 1/4 lbs. (about 2 large heads) broccoli, cut into small florets, stems cut crosswise into 1/4″ slices
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp. crushed red chile flakes
2 cups original Cheetos, crushed by hand

Make the cheese sauce: Heat cream, 2 tbsp. garlic, shallots, peppercorns, and bay leaf in a 2-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring often, until reduced by half, about 6 minutes. Remove pan from heat, stir in cheeses until melted, and season with salt. Set a fine strainer over a small saucepan and strain sauce, discarding solids. Set aside and keep warm.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add broccoli and cook, stirring, until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Drain broccoli, transfer to a bowl of ice water, and let chill. Drain and transfer to paper towels to dry; set aside. Heat oil in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat. Add remaining garlic and chile flakes and cook until fragrant, 1 minute. Add broccoli and cook, stirring often, until just subtly browned, about 6 minutes.
To serve, spoon cheese sauce evenly among 6 warm serving bowls or small plates. Top sauce with broccoli and a generous sprinkling of Cheetos. Serve immediately.

Here are my personal thoughts.....I would eat that sauce on everything!  I would even add the crushed cheetos to it......maybe. As for the broccoli, I can't eat it, so, no broccoli. But, I have to admit, I can see this happening...strange, but true!

Here are several of the reviews of the recipe from Saveur:

"Seriously? A recipe with Cheetos - out of the bag - puts a dent in Saveur's credibility "

"The inventor of Cheetos has to be lovin this one!!! So if you haven't tried it don't knock it. It was absolutely delicious :>) "

I'll be darned! Visit the Saveur webpage for wonderful recipes, including those with Cheetos.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Country Club Plaza Lights

    Merry Christmas from Kansas City!

 Writing a food blog has several advantages, one being you are read by other food bloggers and are accepted into a sort of sorority of foodies.

This week, I have received so many Christmas greetings from around the world, each wishing me a Merry Christmas in a foreign language. I received 7 from Italy wishing me a Buon Natale! 2 from France with messages of Joyeux Noël! A Spanish wish for a Feliz Navidad, and I must not forget
a Munter Jul from Sweden!
I realize this recipe is a little late, unless you read this blog tonight and just happen to have the ingredients and the evening free. The dough needs to be refrigerated overnight, so you will bake them tomorrow! (I've added some American equivalents
where needed, they are in red)

Swedish Pepparkakor
("Pepper cakes"...these cookies contain black pepper)
1 cup (2 dl) water
1/2 cup (1 dl) syrup (molasses)
2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon of ground cloves
1 tablespoon of ground ginger
1 teaspoon of ground cardamom
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon of bicarbonate (baking soda)
10.5 oz (300 gr) butter (1 1/3 cups)
2.5 cups (5 dl) sugar
7.5 cups or about 1 lb. (1.5 liters) flour

HOW TO DO IT: Mix butter, sugar and syrup. Add spices and bicarbonate, then water and finally part of the flour.
Mix in the rest of the flour.

Let the dough sit over night, wrapped in foil in the fridge.
Roll the dough as thin as possible using flour.

Cut out figures - preferable Christmas figures, hearts, stars etc.
Bake in oven for about 5 minutes at 200-225 degrees C (400-425 degrees F).

Watch it! They burn fast once they start.
You can get about 300 cookies, depending on how big you make them. It is nice to make some quite big hearts, decorated with frosting and maybe hang them up in the window.

Enjoy! Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Help Save Kansas City Jazz!

December 23, 2011.Time  7:00pm until 11:00pm..Description Kansas City's talented musicians have recently lost three music venues in the last few weeks. Let's come together this Friday to support the important live music scene in Kansas City. You are invited to enjoy the debut of Jazz & Wine in the Castle with the Steve Cardenas and Stan Kessler Quartet.

Dec.23, 8pm, Two shows

Renee Kellys' Caenen Castle , 12401 Johnson Dr. Shawnee Ks.

$5 Cover--Doors open at 7pm

Sponsored by Chef Renee Kelly and Somerset Ridge Vineyard & Winery

Steve Cardenas-Guitar, world renowned KC native

Stan Kessler-Trumpet

Gerald Spaits-Bass, KC veteran & 1st call musician

Brian Steever-Drums, brilliant young talent

See yoy there!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Tonight is the night!
Opening celebration of a show of paintings by David Gross and yours truly.

I would love to see you at ARTichokes Gallery tonight between 6 and 9PM
if you are in the Kansas City area!
Please join us!
106th and Mission Road, Leawood, KS

I have 10 paintings hanging and 2 paintings that David Gross and I did together.
The other artists include Becky Pashia,
and Kristin Goering

I must admit, I'm a little nervous,
But all should go well once I am there.
And I can't forget there will be wine from
my favorite vineyard and winery,
Somerset Ridge! 

Friday, December 9, 2011

In 2009, Jasper Mirabile and I held our first dinner, dedicated to pork of all kinds! We called it "Pig 101....from Snout to Tail".  After the big success and requests for more of the samr, last year we held "Pig 102". Well, time flies; It is time for "Pig 103"!
The photo was taken by Jasper as I was tying the last 3 hog jowls we are curing for Guanciale. We dry rubbed 30 pounds of them today! Don't I lead an exciting life? Actually I do! Cooking with Jasper is such a treat for me! It brings back my days as a chef at Milano at Crown Center.

Jasper and I discussed our menu for the dinner which will be held at the restaurant on January 30.  Every item on the menu will have pork as one of the ingredients....wait until you see what I am making for dessert!
Stay tuned for more news on the event....there will be some surprises!

This weekend is the Somerset Ridge Painter's annual painting exchange party! Each of the 9 of us paint a painting that represents our own art and style.  The only requirement is they must fit in a brown grocery sack! We arrive at the party with our painting stapled up in a sack, put them all together in a pile and then we draw numbers.  Starting with #1, we each choose a bag from the pile....It is so amazing to see all 9 paintings in one room! Everyone is HAPPY! Even the spouses and significant others have a great time....but of course, there is lots of food and wine involved!
Winnie and Tom Davis are hosting the event this year and she is cooking a couple of beautiful briskets, so I volunteered to bake homemade breads.  I was going to start today, but as luck would have it, painters showed up to paint 2 ceilings and 1 wall that had been damaged by water due to a hail storm wiping out my roof. One of the ceilings was my kitchen! So, maybe I will start the bread tonight! I'd better!
One of the recipes I am going to make is  for Brioche Slider Buns, They are small, beautifully shiny,tiny little buns with just a hint of sweetness and a glorious aroma. My whole house smells like heaven when I bake them, I can hardly wait!
I got the recipe from another food blog...Crepes of Wrath.  Check it out!
Here is the recipe.

Brioche Slider Buns

For the sponge:
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (this is usually the size of 1 packet)
1/3 cup milk, 110 degrees F
2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
For the dough:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (1.5 to 2)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cubed
For baking:
1 egg, beaten
sesame or poppy seeds, for garnish

1.Mix together 1 egg that has been lightly beaten, 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast, 1 cup all-purpose flour, and 1/3 cup of milk, heated to 110 degrees F. Over all of that, sprinkle another 1 cup of all-purpose flour - this is going to "sponge" the mixture (see photo above). Let it rest, uncovered, in a large bowl, for 30-40 minutes. When the sponge is ready to go, the flour will have cracked and it will truly look like a sponge.
2.Add 1 cup of all-purpose flour, 1/3 cup of sugar, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and 4 more lightly beaten eggs to the sponge. Using the dough hook attachment on your mixer, mix on low for 2 minutes until the dough begins to come together. Add in another 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour, and continue to mix on medium for 15 minutes (yes, it's a long time), stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as you go.
3. The dough will be very, very sticky while you mix it, so if it looks too wet and soft, you can add up to 3-4 more tablespoons of flour to the dough. The dough should start to wrap itself around the dough hook and slap against the sides of the bowl.
4.After 15 minutes, continue to mix on medium speed while gradually adding in your 3/4 cup of butter to the dough, a few cubes at a time, allowing a minute or two between each addition so the butter has a chance to incorporate itself into the dough. Continue to mix the dough as you add in the butter - the dough will look strange, but just keep going. The dough should again start to cling to the dough hook and slap against the sides of the bowl.
5.Grease a very, very large mixing bowl with plenty of butter. Transfer the dough from the mixing bowl to the greased bowl. Cover it tightly with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place for 2 hours. We put our dough on our window sill (with the window shut, obviously) in the sunlight. After it has risen, deflate it gently with your hands. Using new plastic wrap, cover the dough again and chill it for at least 6 hours
or as long as overnight (I do ours overnight). After it has been refrigerated,
you are ready to bake your slider buns.
6. Lightly flour your hands and shape the dough into 25-30 balls by rolling them in your hands, but still working quickly because the dough is best when it is still cold. Place them on a lined or greased baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Flatten them slightly with your palm, then cover the dough again with some towels and allow to rise for another 45 minutes to 1 hour.
7.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Beat 1 egg, and brush the egg over the buns to give them a nice sheen. Sprinkle some sesame seeds or poppy seeds over them for a garnish, and brush them with a bit more egg to keep the seeds in place. Bake for 15-20 minutes, rotating the sheets once through the baking time, until golden. The buns are ready when you tap them and they feel sort of hollow inside. Allow to cool, slice open, and fill with your favorite slider fare (meatballs, hamburgers, pulled pork, etc.). You can also freeze them after the cool and use them on another date.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Baby, Its Getting Cold Outside!

I’m not sure if I am a true believer in “old wives tales”, the Farmer’s Almanac, or, for that matter, the weatherman. I will tell you this….

1. Today, all of the cattle between my house and my studio in Paola were lying down. (a sign of an approaching change in the weather)

2. Johnson County, Kansas is home for thousands and thousands of Canada geese, and today they were all heading south. The sky was full of huge waving Vs as they were fleeing the area before the stuff hits the fan! (that’s what geese do….head south)

3. I just saw a woolly worm in my garage….he looked like he was wearing his mothers mink coat! (they say that only happens when we are going to have a tough winter) A researcher actually tested the woolly worm for accuracy.....results?  80% right!

4. As for the weatherman, he is predicting yucky weather.
(Okay, I usually don’t pay very close attention to him, I think I'll stick with Mr. Wooly Worm.

All things considered, I think our beautiful autumn is over here in the Midwest! We may have snow by Sunday. I’m very glad I hung the wreath on the front door when it was in the mid-50s…the temperature is going to drop like a rock!

I suppose it is foolish to hope for a mild winter…they are very rare here in Kansas.
So, I am prepared to spend the winter close to home. I’ve moved into my studio here at home….I used to refer to that room as the kitchen! But I have found the aromas of a pot of simmering soup and bread baking is quite a creative stimulant. I love being in my kitchen, …cooking, baking and painting!

I am delivering 10 paintings to ARTichokes Gallery next week in preparation for the show opening on the 16th (PLEASE COME!) My latest painting is of a small village on the shore of Lake Como in Northern Italy, in the state of Lombardy, the home of my ancestors.
So, it seems fitting for a pot of Pasta e fagioli, or what you might call “pasta fazool”, to be filling my studio/kitchen with the aromas of this famous soup. I hope you enjoy the recipe! Stay warm!

Pasta e Fagioli

6 cups of chicken broth                  
4 to 6 clove of crushed garlic
2  15oz cans of cannellini beans
2  150z cans of crushed tomatoes
1 onion chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
3 Tbls extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup of Somerset Ridge Flyboy Red wine
1 box of elbow or ditalini pasta

Saute onions and garlic in a pot. Add the broth, wine and tomatoes and oregano. Bring to a boil.
Add beans and reduce heat and let simmer for around 15 minutes.
Add pasta and simmer for ten minutes, until done.
Cover and remove from heat and let it thicken up for around 30 minutes.

Serve with Flyboy Red wine and bread or nice toasted garlic bread.

Ponte Vecchio, Florence, Italy

Ponte Vecchio, Florence, Italy
oil painting by Kay Tucker

Somerset Autumn on Wea Creek

Somerset Autumn on Wea Creek
Oil Painting by Kay Tucker, Private Collection


oil painting by Kay Tucker

Kansas Storm

Kansas Storm
oil painting by Kay Tucker, Private Collection

Watercolor Collage

Watercolor Collage

Tempo al Tempo....All in Good Time

Tempo al Tempo....All in Good Time
48"x36" sculptural painting by Kay Tucker