Easter Panzanella

011Easter lunch at our house was a success.  We combined a delicious make-ahead meal with the joy of celebrating Resurrection with family and good friends around our table.  Make that tableS because we had thirteen happy diners here last Sunday.  I learned a long time ago that the secret to making good food for guests while enjoying it myself lies in doing almost everything the day before.  Several parts of this meal will be featured in the posts this month, but today’s salad was my favorite.

Panzanella is a traditional dish made in various parts of central Italy, particularly Florence.  There are many variations but almost all use stale bread, cubed, and combined with tomatoes plus other summertime vegetables and basil.  This recipe combines several of those with inspiration from Ina Garten’s preparation for one she calls Greek Panzanella.  I like the addition of feta cheese and Kalamata olives as well her method of pan toasting the bread cubes which go well with the crunchiness of all the fresh vegetables. More traditional bread salad will have the bread cubes soaked in marinade, making a softer ingredient.

Easter Panzanella

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

6-8 cups of bread cubed from Ciabbata or Rosemary Bread

4 cups cherry tomatoes, halved – or  tomatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes

2 English cucumbers, sliced 1/2-inch thick

2 red bell peppers, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 yellow bell pepper,  cut into 1-inch cubes

1 green bell pepper, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 red onion, cut in 1/2 and thinly sliced

Kalamata olives pitted, 1 cups

Feta cheese, crumbled, 2 cups

Fresh basil for garnish, optional

For the vinaigrette:

4 garlic pods, minced 

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

6 Tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1  teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Wash all vegetables and pat dry.  Remove seeds from peppers, chop, and place in a large bowl. Add  sliced tomatoes.  Halve the cucumbers lengthwise.  Using the tip of a teaspoon, run  gently down the center to scoop out any seeds, then lay the cucumber halves down to slice and add them along with sliced red onion to the other veggies.  Toss to combine.  If you are making this ahead of time, place each vegetable in a zip loc bag and refrigerate until serving time. I prefer to slice tomatoes at the last minute as they tend to soften.

Prepare vinaigrette by whisking together red wine vinegar, dijon mustard, olive oil, salt and pepper. Set aside

Heat olive oil in a large iron skillet. Add the bread ; cook over, stirring often, for 8- 10 minutes, or until nicely browned. Add more oil if needed.   Add  crumbled feta cheese, olives, and  bread cubes to chopped vegetables, then toss with the vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper as desired. Garnish with a sprig of fresh basil.

Flavor improves by allowing this to sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

Ben’s Best Mac and Cheese

I have never made this recipe myself. But I have eaten it!  and leftovers were today’s lunch!  It was made in my kitchen last night by our youngest son, Ben, who has made it before and declared this his best!  I offered him the chance to be a guest blogger on Kitchen Keepers and when he declined he said I could share the recipe on the blog.

Joe had an emergency hospitalization which prompted fresh gratitude for the helping hands of two of my sons who live nearby.  Sean came and helped take his Dad to the hospital on Monday.  Ben came to help last night and cooked our dinner.  Try this when you are craving  cheesy, delicious comfort food!  By the way, Sean recently made his famous homemade Corned Beef Hash for us.  I will include his recipe sometme soon.  And just so you know, son Jeremy who lives too far away to pop over for week night suppers, is a gourmet cook, too. I am one blessed Mom, and their wives appreciate them, also!

Ben’s Best Mac and Cheese

Sea Salt

1 pound Dreamfield’s Penne Regate pasta

2 cups of chopped Canadian Bacon

3 cups milk

8 tablespoons (1 stick)  butter, divided

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

8 ounces Gruyère, grated (2 cups)

8 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated (2 cups)

1 cup crumbled Gorgonzola

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp Penzey’s French Four Spice  or 1/2 tsp nutmeg and 1/2 tsp dried thyme

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1  cup Panko bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Into a large pot of boiling salted water.add the pasta and cook according to the directions on the package, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain well.

Put chopped Canadian Bacon in skillet.  Heat and stir until slightly browned.

Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in a large (4-quart) pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the milk and cook for a minute or two more, until thickened and smooth. Off the heat, add the Gruyère, Cheddar, Gorgonzola, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, and spices. Add the Canadian Bacon and cooked pasta, stirring to mix.  Pour into a buttered 3-quart baking dish and top with bread crumbs.  Dot with small pieces of remaining butter.  Heat in oven until bread crumbs are golden brown and the sauce on pasta is bubbling.

Sauteed Scallops served on Italian Chicory

Long-stemmed Fancy Dandelion greens, also called Italian Chicory,  is related to several other bitter leaf vegetables which make up the chicory family, such as Belgian endive and the many varieties of Radicchio which are so important in the region of Veneto in Italy. We recently had some in our CSA vegetable share which I enjoyed using as a delicious side with scallops.  We used this for a light supper.  Smaller portions make excellent starters for a heavier meal. I adapted a recipe from www.epicurious.com.

Sauteed Sea Scallops with Italian Chicory     4 servings

12 large sea scallops

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons Sherry wine vinegar, divided
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 bunch Italian chicory (other bitter greens may be used, or a mix)
2 tablespoons water

Whisk together 1/3 cup oil, 2 tablespoons vinegar, and shallot. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Tear chicory into small pieces and add to bowl.  Keep covered and chilled until ready to mix.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle scallops with salt and pepper. Add scallops to skillet and cook until golden brown and just opaque in center, about 1 1/2 minutes per side. When cooking a larger number of scallops, please cook them in batches, not crowding them into the skillet.

Whisk vinaigrette; pour over greens and toss. Divide slaw between plates.. Arrange 3 scallops atop slaw on each plate. Add remaining  vinegar to same skillet along with 2 tablespoons water. Bring to simmer, scraping up any browned pieces from scallops.. Drizzle this sauce over scallops. In this photo, I have served this with a side of edamame and wild rice.

Green Gathering

These days we often talk about picking up something for dinner or “grabbing” take out. How infinitely more satisfying to gather! I love cutting greens from my tiny Winter garden, gathering them in a bunch to bring inside, rinse, cut and saute into a delicious side for roasted chicken or grilled fish. In this photo, our mustard greens and collards thrive. The small broccoli plants in the bottom picture are just beginning to put out enough florets for snipping to add to stir fry. did you know that broccoli greens are also good to eat?  Here is one of my favorite mustard recipes. By the way, I grew up in East Texas during a time when a pot of greens meant they were boiled to death with some bits of fat bacon. I ate them reluctantly, and was well into adulthood before I realized I loved them when they were not cooked past recognition. Try this, you just might like them as much as I do.

Mustard Greens with Toasted Mustard Seeds

If you have a garden, you can gather just as much as you need for a meal. If you are purchasing from a market, you will probably wind up with a rather large bunch of greens. Don’t worry, they cook down to a much reduced volume even with brief sautéing, and you can use leftovers in many ways.

Mustard Greens

2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

Olive oil

1/4 cup whole mustard seeds

Sea Salt

Rinse mustard leaves, pat dry, and trim lower stems. Stack the leaves and coarsely shred with a sharp knife.  In a 10 inch iron skillet, scatter mustard seed and toast until they begin to pop.  Carefully add 2 Tablespoons olive oil and minced garlic, stirring for about 2 minutes.  Add mustard greens, tossing to coat until they are wilted.  Add a splash or 2 of your choice of vinegar.  We like balsamic or apple cider vinegar.  Sherry vinegar is milder and also very good.  Use tongs to serve. 

Christmas Vegetables 2011

This year we had two Christmas Dinners!  Jeremy and his family were here for a few days but had to leave on Christmas Eve day.  So we had our family dinner on the 23rd with our whole family.  Since Christmas Day fell on Sunday, the rest of the family went to church then came back here to have a mid day meal.  Both meals were wonderful…after all, it is not what is on the plate, but who is in the chairs, right?  I am choosing one recipe from each to include here. 

Christmas Day Dinner featured Shrimp Strata, Baby Green Peas, Maple Glazed Baby Carrots, Crispy Potatoes and Fennel, Croissants, and Eudora Welty’s famous White Fruitcake.  This skillet of potatoes and fennel is becoming a Christmas tradition in the Parker house.

Crispy Potatoes with Fennel

1 -2 fennel bulbs

3 Tablespoons olive oil

2 lb. small red potatoes, thinly sliced

2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme (or use dried French Thyme)

1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

You need an old-fashioned 9 or 10 inch iron skillet to bake this due to the high oven heat. 

Preheat oven to 475 degrees.  Rinse fennel well, trim root end and stalks. and thinly slice bulb.  Add oil to cast iron skillet.  Arrange half of potato slices, layer with fennel slices and then add another layer of potato slices.  Sprinkle with thyme, salt, and pepper.  Cover with foil. Bake at 475 for 35 minutes, uncover and bake 15 more minutes or until potatoes are browned.  Serve hot.  May be transferred to serving dish.  Serves 6- 8.  This is an adaptation of recipe from December 2010 Southern Living. We doubled it, making 2 skillets!

 Our Friday night gathering included smoked turkey and cornbread dressing with roasted root vegetables, Parmesan green beans, and fresh fruit salad of pears, pineapple and pomegranate, Yeast Rolls, and Christmas treats hand dipped by Maddie and Jordannn. 

Roasted Rosemary Root Vegetables

1 large onion1 medium Rutabaga

2 small purple top turnips

1 bag parsnips

3 large carrots

2 sweet potatoes

2 Tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary

Olive oil and sea salt

Peel and chop all vegetables into one inch cubes.  Toss rosemary, olive oil and sea salt in a large bowl, then spread on foil covered baking sheet in single layer.  Roast at 425 degrees until vegetables are fork tender.   Serve at once.

Cook’s note:  We love roasted beets, but if included in the mix, everything turns beet color.  So I roast a few small beets separately and add them on top.  This year, I also added one bunch of tiny white Japense turnips. 


Brown Rolls

This recipe has been tucked into my file box for nearly 50 years!  Before we were married , Joe and I enjoyed the company of a couple who later moved to Midland, Texas.  Staunch Texas A&M fans, they often attended football games and alumni gatherings wherever they lived, so naturally they accepted an invitation to an alumni event in their new city.  Carrying their picnic potluck contribution, they drove up to the covered park pavilion and joined the large crowd of fellow supporters already immersed in catching up conversations and general hilarity. Since they were new to the area, they were not surprised to feel like they didn’t know anyone, but joined right in with group fun, and of course, group food. After a satisfying intake  they grabbed some more iced tea and settled down to relax and wait for the videos of recent Aggie games that were always shown on big screens at social occasions like this.

After a while, when there were no screens being set up, they asked about it, got a puzzled look and when some comments about the most recent A&M football victory did not get an expected response,  a discovery was made. They had just attended a local bank employee picnic where they had eaten their fill! They found this much less amusing than all the bank workers, and soon left in embarrassment, driving away with none of the bravado with which they arrived. I confess that I never really asked what they took to the picnic, but it is likely that the offering was Brown Rolls, the recipe which was given to me in July, 1963.

Brown( AKA Gig’Em Aggie) Rolls

1. 2/3 cup sugar
1 cup Kellogg’s All Bran
2 teaspoons salt
¾ cup Crisco

2. Pour 1 cup boiling water over above ingredients and cool.
3. Beat 2 eggs in small bowl
4. Dissolve 2 packages of yeast in 1 cup lukewarm water.
5. Mix all 3 solutions together

6. 6 cups of flour, sifted.

7. Stir, and mix all together very well. No kneading. Let rise about 2 hours Punch down and roll on floured board. Cut with round cutter and let rise about 2 hours again. Bake.

Store unused portion in refrigerator. Will keep for days. Delicious!

Edith Brown’s Pancake Recipe

Our go to recipe for pancakes for a crowd at breakfast was given to us many years ago. It is typed on file card sized paper that has been dog eared, is as aged as parchment, and is brown-spotted. There are three things that make it unusual. One is that it is named for Edith Brown. I never met her and don’t know the story of how these pancakes became “hers”, but have had fun imagining how she became famous for her pancakes. Also, the ingredients leave you guessing. How much flour is “for proper consistency?” For that matter, what is proper consistency?” Experiment by adding the flour gradually and being ready to add more if you find it too thin when pouring the first pancake. The last thing that makes this a different recommendation?  There are no directions for cooking!  In the spirit of adventure….

                                              Edith  Brown’s Pancake Recipe

                                                   6 Eggs

                                                   1 Quart milk

                                                   6 Tablespoons sugar

                                                   3 Heaping Tablespoons Baking Powder

                                                   1 1/2 Sticks Oleo (I use butter)


                                                     Add flour for proper consistency

Dutch Baby

Favorite breakfasts at the Parker house may include different dishes according to which family member is asked. But this easy to make and bake pancake is on everybody’s list! It is also one of my favorites to make for holidays and house guests, so it was previously featured on my blog www.mappingsforthismorning.blogspot.com  when I made it for a Fourth of July breakfast!

A Dutch Baby is a puffed pancake with blueberries, rasperries, and strawberries. We enjoy a variety of pancakes of various origins, but this is voted family favorite. Nearly 25 years ago, our friends Bob and Dorothy Thomas made one for a dessert. Once I tasted it, I hastily scribbled the bones of the recipe on a torn piece of paper, which is still the one I pull out when I get ready to make it. Even though I know the simple ingredients and preparation by heart, I like to connect with the memories by handling this tattered little note. It may be simple, but because it rises and puffs and is always beautiful with any assortment of fresh fruit, it is a great way to make guests feel special, whether served at breakfast, brunch, or a lovely dinner dessert.

1/3 cup butter
4 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup flour

Begin heating oven to 425 degrees. Put butter into an 8 inch round iron skillet and place in oven. While butter is melting, put eggs, milk, and flour into blender jar and mix throughly. Take hot skillet out of oven and pour batter directly into melted butter. Do not stir. Place back into oven for about 20 minutes, or until puffed and browned. I cut it into fourths and top with fresh berries or peaches and sprinkle lightly with powdered sugar. If you wish, add a dollop if whipped cream. Garnish with a sprig of mint.
Optional: Add vanilla or a dash of nutmeg for flavor. We like it plain.

Taking the Heat, Hatch Chile Rellenos

       Record drought and heat is the story for our Texas summer!  We pulled up the tomato plants that had stopped producing when temperatures soared to make way for fall garden planting.  A few weeks ago we put in a half dozen new plants that are struggling even with extra water and bandana coverings for shade.  The peppers are a different story.  It is if they just now picked up speed.  I have Big Bertha (yellow) and  Purple Beauty, Gypsy and Garden Salsa and Tobasco.  They are plucky and heat defiant.  I have been getting peppers in our CSA share as well which introduced us to a new heirloom variety,  named after Mt. Aconcagua in Argentina. Aconcagua are hearty, grow to amazing lengths,are delicious stuffed, and add flavor to many vegetable dishes and sauces.  Late August is also the  time for Hatch Chile Peppers from New Mexico to appear in our supermarkets.  Every year I find  new recipes to try with their heat.  Hatch Chile Rellenos is my favorite.   I already have the peppers ready to roast and fill with goat cheese, pine nuts, and raisins!

 Hatch Chile Rellenos

8-10 large Hatch chile peppers, roasted, stemmed, seeded, and sliced lengthwise 

9 ounces goat cheese

3 ounces raisins.

2 ounces pine nuts, lightly toasted 

sea salt, to taste 

1 cup Crema Mexicana 

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

 Combine goat cheese, raisins, and pine nuts with a sprinkle of sea salt.  Lay the peppers in baking pan, stuff with cheese mixture.  Bake in 350 degree oven for 15 minutes.

 In a small pan, heat the crema Mexicana over LOW heat until it is warm.  Drizzle chiles with warm crema. Garnish with cilantro and serve.

Strawberry Jam with Rosemary and Black Pepper

Maddie and Skye went out to Froberg Farms and helped me pick strawberries last year.  They were best eaten immediately, but of course we picked way more than we immediately used, so several pint bags went into the freezer.  This morning I decided to make preserves with them, because Joe likes strawberry preserves.  He always says his mother made wonderful strawberry preserves.  This time I didn’t even try to make them like she did.  I picked several sprigs of fresh rosemary from my herb garden to chop finely, ground black pepper on top, and the lemon and small amount of sugar were all that was needed more than all my frozen strawberries  As they bubble in the pot (2 pots, actually as I had 8 pints of berries), I wish the little girls were here to help me stir.

  • 4 pints fresh (best) strawberries – I used frozen this time 
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 Tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  •  Juice of 1 large or 2 small lemons
  • 1 teaspoon freshly chopped rosemary

Put all ingredients in soup pot or Dutch oven,  and stir to combine. Bring to a boil. Then lower heat toand simmer about 30 minutes. Cook until thickened. Pour into pint jars and refrigerate for up to two weeks.  Wonderful on waffles or as a spread for toast or scones.  Also good on Blue Bell ice cream!.