A Little Fall Supper

When I was a wee thing, we sat at the table, seen but not heard, and ate what was put in front of us. The variety was dazzling. Tuna noodle casserole Mondays. Spam slathered with brown sugar Wednesday. Take out fish and chips on Friday. New England Boiled dinner on Saturdays. Pot Roast on Sundays. Tuesday and Thursday evenings my mother went to school so my father alternated his repertoire of two meals: Open Face (A slice of Wonder Bread with either peanut butter or mayonnaise) and tuna and egg cakes. These seven meals rotated like clockwork. Twin Pines Dairy filled in the gaps by leaving- twice a week, in the milk chute- 3 1/2 gallons of milk, 2 # of butter, 1 pint of sour cream, and 1 quart of cottage cheese. Times two for a family of five people. The highlight in our lives was the weekly pass of the Awrey Bakery truck; the driver would sometimes let us hitch a ride in the back and eat stale cookies. My favorite was guess what?  Awreys molasses cookies (Yes, Lu, I was promiscuous early.) And every night my father was not on the road selling tractors we had popcorn, the staple of my childhood diet.

Needless to say, my mother was not an imaginative cook. Other than those happy Fridays when my Dad brought home yellow stapled paper plates from Suzy-Q’s Fish and Chips dinner was mostly a drag. My father took the clean plate club to new heights and many a Monday night I sat in the dark trying to gag down tuna noodle casserole, my Dad the overseer while the rest of the family slept. As a result of this food struggle it took me an extra dozen years after leaving home to venture out into the world of food, variety and cooking. (Two other things happened. I never forced my children to eat a single thing they didn’t want and they both LOVE to eat, will try anything and are lean and healthy. The other is that tuna noodle casserole has never been served in this house and it will never, if it’s the last food on earth, cross my lips again.)

Nowadays I cook in fits and starts. When I choose to cook- several times a week- I would humbly allow as to how I am a great cook. My family and friends enjoy my cooking. I really enjoy good food. I love trying new things, I rarely follow recipes to the letter and I’ve fairly creative. If I won the lottery the first thing I would do is buy myself a live-in sous chef and then I would cook everyday, all the time.

Often, I do my best cooking after traveling.  So when I got back from visiting Abby I decided to cook a nice meal for my family and then, as mentioned, since you were all so kind to drop by I decided to share it with you.

Menu

Ham and Cheese Croquettes with creamy mustard sauce
Basmati Rice with saffron and a hint of curry
Baby Romaine salad with pinenuts, Traverse City dried cherries, served in a Parmesan cheese bowl.

Elk Cove Vineyards Pinot Gris from the Willamette Valley

Whole Paycheck One-Bite Brownies

Since I often cook by the seat of my pants, I’ll give you the recipe highlights and suggest that you open the wine early, stretch out the kinks, relax, drop your shoulders and see what happens.

The ham and cheese croquette recipe originates with me. My family likes themIngredients and I can do everything but cook them ahead of time. The picture (click to enlarge) shows the precise ingredients and amounts- it’s that simple and these amounts make a 14-16 (serving size is 2-3) with a few tablespoons left over for the best next day omelet filling ever.

I love the Leerdammer Lightlife Swiss cheese. It is just about the sweetest, nuttiest Swiss available and it’s low fat. I mix one half emmentaler but you could use all one or the other, the key thing being a high quality Swiss with no saltiness. Likewise, use a really good ham with a brown sugar or maple coating and throw the edge in, too. (Not the plastic wrap, dummy- the rind). This dinner is inexpensive to start so use the best ingredients.

MixChop ham and cheese into one inch cubes and then, first one and then the other, coarse chop in the food processor. Don’t over do it. Toss together in a bowl with 2 tablespoons fresh fine chop parsley. Use fresh egg roll skins. Lay a skin out, point towards you, use about 3 big tablespoons of filling, roll the bottom point up, then the sides in, then the far point down, sealing with a drop of water. If you have never rolled eggrolls before you’ll get the hang of this after a couple; what you don’t want is a lot of flappy ends or so much stuffing that the skin splits. You want a nice snug roll and I’m sorry the picture didn’t come out. You can put these in a single layer on a plate with parchment paper and refrigerate until ready to cook.Rolls

To cook the croquettes, fry them fast and hot in about an inch of good oil, turning once, until the skin is a light brown. Then put them on paper towel in a pie plate and place in a warm oven (not so hot you burn the paper) for ten minutes to get the insides nice and hot. Fast and hot frying means that they absorb very little oil (really- almost none), and they stay crispy in the oven.

The sauce: Prepare one envelope package of Knorr Hollandaise sauce as instructed, add two tablespoons lemon juice and two teaspoons good quality dry mustard. This sauce has a nice bite but isn’t overwhelmingly hot.

Ready for more calories? The Salad

Teeny tiny black seeds planted in early September result in lovely baby greens from the garden during October- a final burst of fresh! You can also find nice baby romaine in the produce department right now. You will also need pinenuts and dried red cherries. Dried cherries are a specialty of the Lake Michigan northern shoreline so we use them for nice color and delightful flavor.

You know how to make a really nice balsamic vinaigrette. I use the best olive oil and vinegar, a teaspoon of sugar, a bit of garlic, salt, black pepper and whip it in my friendly food processor for a moment and then refrigerate it until tossing the salad in a bowl. This way it hangs together and doesn’t separate.

Parmesan Cheese Bowls

RightThese are fun, simple and easy enough once you get the hang of it. Use coarse shredded- altogether now- GOOD QUALITY- Parmesan cheese. Heat the skillet to a steady medium heat. Look at the picture and spread your cheese accordingly. It should take about 2 minutes for the bottom to lightly brown. Remove the skillet from the heat and leave it alone for a bit while you do something else. When the cheese is mostly cool (not still melted but still malleable) use a spatula and carefully remove it from pan and drape over a small round bowl, brown side up.
Gently shape. Let cool. These are a little bit trial and error but simple once you get the hang of it. Just be patient.

Just before serving, toss salad and fill cheese bowls. Add pine nuts and cherries.

Basmati Rice makes a nice side to the croquettes. I cook it with just a few strands of saffron for color and then right at the end add a bit of butter, about a teaspoon of good Madras Curry powder, stir well and keep hot in a covered bowl until serving.

The Elk Cove Pinot Gris we discovered when we were out in Horsetail’s neck of the woods and it is the perfect wine for this meal. I was all set to take a picture of your lovely meal and the beautiful table complete with fall blooming anemones but while I was snapping the salad, Daniel and Rich got halfway through your dinner. Sorry about that. And Bon Appetite!Salad2


15 responses to “A Little Fall Supper

  1. For those of you who were unable to TASTE it, let me assure you it was even better than it looked. My favorite part was the cheese bowl. You know how when you make a grilled cheese sandwich some of the cheese oozes onto the grill and gets fried to the max? And that’s the best part, right? Well the whole bowl tastes that way.

  2. You have made me so hungry! The photo of the salad is beautiful. I love that plate. Have I told I love dishes and Steven says I have far too many? Its true. I now covet your salad plate. LOL

  3. Oh, that salad is *gorgeous*!

    Tuna Casserole…ewwww. My K loves it and begs me to make it, but I just can’t go there.

    I am never gonna live down that whole Molasses cookie comment thing, am I?

  4. That makes me SO SO hungry!!! And YES! to Basmati rice. Anybody who hasn’t used/tasted Basmati has not had good rice.

    But, saffron? Is it still $1,000 a pound? Added “for color”? Orange zest would be a lot cheaper AND EVEN TASTES GOOD.

    Wait a minute. This is YOUR menu, not mine. I retract all of my opinions, except for the ones above.

  5. “A little fall supper” might be more aptly titled “The Epitome of Epicurean Ecstasy”! And, if my math is correct, I only need to double your recipe. The best part of this post is the unwritten healing concerning food and cooking in your life. How great that you cook with such deep love and regard for your family, in spite of a background that you very graciously only touched upon.

    Geraniums are red.
    Delphiniums are blue.
    As I diet on croquettes,
    I’ll think of you!

    Your mention of Traverse City cherries has put me in mind of visiting Gwen Frostic’s studio in Benzonia, MI and stopping at a roadside stand, featuring seashells embedded in thick polyurethane tables and the world’s finest cherry preserves, near her home.

    What dinner music do you recommend with that feast?

  6. That looks wonderful.

  7. That looks wonderful.

  8. Now that’s a meal I’m sorry to miss. I just might try a version of it.

    Thanks,

    Cas

  9. Oh christ I hope that TLMS doesn’t blog-walk and find his way to this.

    I lost a bet and have to make him dinner – his choice. *sobs*

  10. You are amazing. The pictures, descriptions and ingredients are scrumptious. My mom cooked a lot growing up–it was only near the end of the month(and my dad’s teacher paycheck)that we ate things like lima beans out of a can, and SOS–which I always liked. I still like Tuna Noodle Casserole, but only with rotini noodles and lots of sharp cheddar cheese.

  11. Oh Vickie…man,oh,man. That salad looks divine!! I must say that I actually like tuna casserole and make a pretty good one that my kids gag down every once in a while when I’m feeling evil.

    Our childhoods meals sound very similar. Poor us 😦 I guess that’s why I always said I would marry a man that cooks well. I knew I wouldn’t. I also said I would marry a man that cuts my meat for me, but that’s another story…

    Thanks for stopping by today. I loved your Survivor comments. I’m blogrolling you now so I can stop forgetting to visit. I hope you have a lovely trip:)

  12. Sorry…that didn’t really make sense.

    I knew I wouldn’t cook well. My husband is a marvelous cook and will cut my meat when I ask nicely 😉

  13. That salad is really gorgeous, as are the plates. Green is my favorite color!

  14. Well here I sit, head hanging in shame. I thought I did well to do plain meals, grilled chicken, vegetable, tossed salad, baked potatoe or brown rice. I think I will just slink slowly away and not attempt to send out any of my (one) recipe. I stand now in awe. It’s all true, the card my brother sent for my birthday: “I was going to buy you this great set of non-stick professional cookware for your birthday but then I remembered”….switch to inside…..”YOU DON’T COOK!!!” BWAHAHA!

  15. Oh my GOD Vickie! That sounds wonderful. I wanna try the ham and cheese thingys for sure 😉

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