Archive for June, 2011

(New) Friends and Recipes: What Time Doesn’t Change

Monday, June 6th, 2011

For a long time, I’ve been in the habit of imagining what some people I meet may have looked like in their younger days. It started, I think, with a work colleague who was about 15 years older than I. She was elegant and lovely, a very kind and fun person. Her face had aged early and she occasionally commented that she missed being beautiful. In my mind’s eye, I could ‘see’ her as an incomparable beauty in years past. For all she had become and accomplished, she was no longer beautiful in that dewy 20-year old way.

While I had liked the way I looked, I’d reserved the word beautiful for other people and in turn, I’d rarely been called beautiful in features. I found it fascinating that my friend believed she had lost status as a beauty as she aged. At that time, she was under 40, far from old in any way.

Last week I joined a group of eight women. Each of us knew at least two of the guests. One knew every one of us. We’d all gone to Iowa State University in the 70’s. Each has weathered storms in her life. All were smart, lively, interesting women.

I looked around that table, imagining how each of us had looked as a college freshman or junior and how we’d each embraced our lives. The guest of honor commented to one woman: “You get the award for having changed the least,” while said woman laughed and said, “Really?”

For my part, based on the three women I’ve known since journalism school at ISU, each of us grew into the essence that was wholly apparent then: Raeanne’s

exuberant creativity; Sue’s practical competence and centered joy; Heather’s

creative pragmatism and peerless organizational skills.

I sat there marveling at what each of us had become as fully formed women. Those I knew and those I’d just met, beautiful, every one.

And of course, there was food. Heather, planner extraordinaire, hosted us, made assignments, and offered the appetizers and wine. Liz,

who I’d just met, brought the main dish salad, Liz’s Dijon Chicken Salad. The distinctive Dijon-mayonnaise dressing had layers of flavor. It’s one of the best I’ve tasted. Raeanne and Sue ‘art directed’ the photo. In the next few days, I’ll post two more recipes from a memorable evening

Liz credits the recipe to her friend Doris Fortino, who lives in Lucca, Italy and owns an inn.

Liz’s Dijon-Mayonnaise Chicken Salad

 

 

 

2 to 3 lbs. of boneless chicken breasts

Fresh thyme or other fresh herbs

Lemon pepper

1/2 cup slivered almonds

1/2 cup blanched pea pods, sliced as desired. Or use sugar snap peas, blanched

In medium saucepan, place chicken, herbs, lemon pepper and water to cover. Cut a sheet of cooking parchment to exact size of pan, using the lid as a template. Cut an X in the middle with scissors to allow steam to escape. Bring chicken and herbs to a simmer. Cover with parchment and simmer for 20 minutes. Cool and slice into 3/4-inch cubes.

Drop pea pods into boiling water for about 1 minute. Remove and plunge into ice water to cool. Drain, dry and slice, as desired.

Meanwhile, toast almonds on baking sheet in 300° oven, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

In medium bowl, combine cooled chicken and peas. Stir in Dijon-Mayonnaise Dressing (see below). Sprinkle with toasted almonds. Serve on lettuce leaves, croissants, or bread of your choice. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Dijon-Mayonnaise Dressing

Try this dressing as a dipping sauce for crab or salmon cakes. Change it up by stirring in chopped green onions, chopped red bell peppers, and/or fresh herbs.

1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup oil
Soy sauce to taste

In small bowl, combine all ingredients. mix well. Makes 1 3/4 cups dressing.

Rhubarb. Spring. Baking.

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

On Sunday, I enjoyed the pleasures available only on a late May morning in a friend’s kitchen, a friend with a huge rhubarb patch and a baker’s white (flour) thumb. Christine and her husband, Scott welcomed me overnight at their home on a cattle ranch in northeastern Nebraska. For supper Scott grilled pork chops from animals raised nearby and asparagus Christine had harvested that morning from their garden. (They would have served their own beef, but their guest, sadly, is allergic.) All delicious, served with generous helpings of warm conversation.

In the morning, I said, “Something smells wonderful!”

“Rhubarb muffins,” Christine told me. She bakes often and does it without fuss. Another pile of slim stalks lay in the kitchen sink. Later in the day, after I left, she’d make and serve a rhubarb dessert to friends. Her main focus, though, these days is completing her PhD thesis in nursing with an emphasis on qualitative care for elders.

We sat down to  warm muffins, hot tea, and cold orange juice. I ate two muffins.  Well, ok, two-and-a-half. Christine had stirred black walnut extract into the batter, adding another layer of flavor.

Prairie breakfast. Prairie air. Plenty fun!

Christine-style Rhubarb Muffins

Christine: friend, baker, experimental cook, gardener, PhD candidate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 tsp vanilla

1 cup buttermilk, fresh or dried  equivalent

1 1/2 cups diced rhubarb

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/4 tsp black walnut flavoring

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp soda

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

Topping:

2 tsp melted butter

2/3 cup sugar

2 tsp cinnamon

In medium bowl, combine brown sugar, oil, egg, milk and vanilla. Add rhubarb, nuts, and flavoring. Stir in dry ingredients, just until mixed. Spoon into prepared muffin tins, either greased or with paper liners. Combine topping and press gently onto muffin batter. Bake in 350° F for 20 to 25 minutes until wooden pick inserted into center of muffin comes out clean. Makes 18 muffins.