Saturday, September 25, 2010

What A Difference A Week Makes

WITH MUSTARD CROUTONS (from Melissa Clark's new cookbook/see below)

Trauma, trauma, trauma.  After a week of bad news, things are looking up.  I'm in the midst of the busiest fall work season in three years, and a basement renovation that threatened to derail me last week. Adding to my woes, was a computer that died on me.  Getting a new Mac desktop has been a royal pain.  By Thursday, most of these headaches had been vanquished.

The big crack in my foundation is easily fixable, thanks to the foundation expert recommended to me.  A specialist in old houses such as mine (built in 1938), he quickly confirmed all the issues and repairs Kyle had told me would solve the problem.  The second opinion was worth it for my peace of mind, and this guy knew he wouldn't be asked to do the repairs himself.  That's a generous thing to do, and I called the house inspector who recommended him and told him so.  I've also posted a nice notice about him on Angie's List.

The foundation crack that sent me into a nervous breakdown! This is the seam that bound the old foundation (built 72 years ago) to the new foundation of the addition to the house (built 14 years ago).

When I called on Tuesday to find out if my new computer was ready, I was informed they couldn't get it for another week.  I called the owner of the business and got all "New York" with him.  Short story: the computer arrived yesterday and they've installed all the back-up from my old computer, and I'll pick it up in a few hours.

Thursday arrived announcing the departure of the drizzles that have plagued the end of ours summer for the past two weeks.  We've been enjoying abundant sunshine.  For the past three days.  At lunchtime, I sped over to 7 Dees, a fine nursery to purchase a rose bush to bring to a life celebration in honor of the passing of my old friend, Tom Masic. His partner asked that in lieu of flowers a rosebush for their superb garden would be fitting.  I liked that idea.  Rosebushes there were on sale--50% off!  I purchased three---two shrubs and a gorgeous red hybrid tea rose tree. It's called Olympiad and is a magnificent, deep red color.  Now I've got to figure out where to put it.  We're now in a rush to get the trees planted, and a number of plants in pots into the ground before the rainy season starts near Halloween.  I'll be done with the garden for the season by then except to plant a slew of hyacinth, daffodil, tulip and iris bulbs and rhizomes in November for the spring blooming season.  We put a lot of work into the back yard this year and once my brother's car is out of the front side driveway, I can begin to convert that useless plot of land back to its original garden state in the spring. The laurel hedges also get their yearly haircut in November. I'm going to enjoy the rest of daily watering.

My half-priced new red rose tree

And speaking of gardening, the charm of lemon cucumbers has completely worn off.  Easily the biggest success in my vegetable garden this summer were my cucumbers, but the lemon variety took over. I only got about five kirbys and maybe six regular cucumbers. But the yield of lemon cukes was prodigious.  There must have been at least 50 picked already and another 30 are on the way! They are good looking, but have too many seeds.  I made another seven jars of bread and butter pickles this week.  Lucky friends are going to find themselves the recipients of my canning efforts.  I didn't have time to make much jam--only fig this summer.  And if my good friend, Trish Hamilton, hadn't suggested we make apple and pear butter last Sunday, there wouldn't be anything to put on toast this winter.  We put up 36 jars in all, a task that began at 9:00 AM and lasted until 3:00 PM.  Canning and preserving is hard work.

The lemon cucumbers produce in numbers that make zucchini seem like a rare and precious vegetable!

Lemon cucumber bread and butter pickles

Thursday night I made the most delicious roast chicken dish from Melissa Clark's new book, IN THE KITCHEN WITH A GOOD APPETITE.  I've sent the recipe to a bunch of friends, and I'm posting it in the review of the book I'm planning for next week.  But this simple dish has so much flavor that I'm putting it in here along with a photo of the finished dish.


Country bread, ciabatta, or other study bread, preferably stale and sliced 1/2 inch thick.  

Dijon Mustard, as needed
Extra-Virgin olive oil, as needed
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher slat, more as needed
1 4 to 5 pound chicken, cut into 8 serving pieces, rinsed and patted dry
1 head garlic, separated into cloves (but not peeled)
1 bay leaf, torn into pieces
1/2 bunch thyme sprigs

1. Preheat oven to 424 degrees.  Lay the bread slices in the bottom of a heavy-duty roasting pan in one layer. Brush with mustard, drizzle liberally with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

2. Season the chicken all over with salt and pepper and place the pieces on the bread, arranging the white meat in the center and the dark meat and wings around the sides. Scatter the garlic cloves, bay leaf, and thyme over the chicken and drizzle everything with more oil (take care to drizzle the garlic cloves).

3. Roast the chicken until it's lightly browned and the thigh juices run clear when pricked with a knife, about 50 minutes. If you like, you can crisp the skin by running the pan under the broiler for a minute, though you might want to rescue the garlic cloves before you do so they don't burn (if you don't plan to eat them, it doesn't matter so much).  Serve the chicken with pieces of bread from the pan.  

NOTE:  I started checking the chicken at 40 minutes.  But it did cook the full 50 minutes. 

NOTE:  You must use a heavy-bottomed roasting pan. No aluminum--you'll just end up burning the bread.  

Finally last night I had dinner with my cookbook and food writer friend, Ivy Manning and her husband, Gregor.  We went to a new place called June.  The food was very good without being quite a wow, though I really enjoyed a delicious bowl of corn soup which was enhanced by a mild pepper that had been stuffed with crab meat, covered in panko crumbs and fried.  The restaurant is manned by two highly regarded chefs in Portland.  Greg Perrault was recently at the popular NE restaurant DOC.  Daniel Mondock, is the sous chef--an odd arrangement as he is one of the city's most highly regarded cooks, most notably of the late Sel Gris, a spectacular restaurant I visited in 2008 (a fire caused it to close).  There is already tons of buzz about this restaurant (which opened last month), and I wonder how two very fine chefs will get along.  If I had anything to complain about it was the utter casualness of the place.  When you're paying $20+ for entrees and upwards to $13 for a starter course, you have to be snappier looking than glass garage doors, plain wood booths and tables, and lots of air conditioning duct work overhead. I know Portland loves it's casual vibe, but this looks like a hamburger joint, not a fine dining restaurant. 

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