Haiku to Welcome Spring: Nature’s Aria

I love to write haiku!  Creating these short poems helps me to relax, to process events and feelings, and even to be more patient when waiting in long lines.  The “be more patient” haikus usually have themes related to why I’m waiting…I’ll share some of those another time. Today, I’m reveling in spring, and this haiku literally “sprung” into my head while I was marveling at the color of the azaleas.

Nature’s Aria

The azaleas and lantana hold up their pink and purple faces to the sun.
The azaleas and lantana hold up their pink and purple faces to the sun.

Nature’s way to sing:
The wild and exuberant
Hopefulness of spring.

Pico de Gallo: One of My Top Ten Foods

One of my top ten foods is the condiment Pico de Gallo.  I love, love, love it!

Simple, bright and fresh, Pico de Gallo brings a liveliness to any dish it accompanies.

Pico de Gallo tastes as bright and fresh as it looks.
Pico de Gallo tastes as bright and fresh as it looks.

I use Pico de Gallo in tons of ways:

  • in the traditional way, with Tex-Mex and Mexican dishes like tacos, enchiladas and tostadas
  • as a topping for soups, southwest-style stews, vegetable purees, corn pudding, my Glover Gardens chili and many other
  • as a condiment with grilled entrées such as shrimp, fish and pork
  • as an ingredient in other dishes, such as guacamole, southwest rice and scrambled eggs
  • as a topping for a quick Southwest crostini
  • and whatever else comes to mind when I have some left over…

It only takes a few minutes to throw this recipe together, and I make it almost every weekend.

6-8 fresh chile peppers (I use jalapeños and serranos), seeded and coarsely chopped
1/2 red onion, coarsely chopped
1 cup of chopped very ripe tomato
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Juice of 1/2 lime
Pinch (or more) of salt
Pinch of sugar or a few drops of honey

Cooking Instructions
Combine all ingredients, adding more salt if necessary.

The variations for Pico de Gallo are endless! I often add a little cider vinegar for more of an acidic kick, or even substitute it for the lime juice. You can make it more sophisticated by using a good-quality balsamic vinegar instead of lime juice, or more basic by leaving out the cilantro. Leave in the seeds and ribs of the peppers to increase the heat, or toss in a pinch or two of red pepper flakes.  Be sure to use the ripest tomato(es) you can find. I often use cherry or grape tomatoes because they grow so well at Glover Gardens here in Southeast Texas.

Copyright 2015, Glover Gardens Cookbook

Mystery Writers of America Cookbook

Hard-boiled breakfasts, thrilling entrees, cozy desserts, and more–this illustrated cookbook features more than 100 recipes from legendary mystery authors.”

I’m on board with this intriguing promo and am pre-ordering the Mystery Writers’s of America Cookbook which features recipes from lots of my favorite authors.  I’m hoping they will be in character: that Jacqueline Winspear will share something that @maisie_dobbs would have made in ’30s in London, or that Louise Penny will share something that Inspector Gamache’s wife or perhaps the innkeeper would make.

Mystery Writers’ Cookbook

Click here to view the official web site.  The book will be released on March 24.

Dreaming of Summer; Glad for the Greenhouse

It’s a cold, rainy, dreary, bleary, bleak, wet and wintry day here in Southeast Texas.

It’s the kind of day that inspired Dickens to write.  It’s miserable and gray, and I’m no Dickens.  I know we’re spoiled in the Houston area by our 10 months of hibiscus blooms and our one big inch of snow every ten years.  And I feel empathy for our friends in the North, especially when we see winter storms with names wreaking havoc.  But I still want to squawk and complain when we experience our few weeks of true winter.

Is that wrong?

Yes, it is.  So I’m doing an attitude adjustment exercise and practicing IMG_1601gratitude.  I’m grateful that while we’re shivering and planning more one more warming meal of a soup or stew, the plants for my spring garden are growing happily in the greenhouse I got for Christmas last year.  It’s a compact little structure, but perfect for jump-starting the tastes of summer.  If you’re interested, Amazon has quite a few options; click here to see the one I have.  I just visited my seedlings and they’re looking great!  They’ll be ready to flourish in the sun, if it ever comes back out.  🙂  I took a quick video just to capture the awesome sound of the rain hitting the greenhouse.  

There’s basil growing in one of those pots, and assorted tomatoes and peppers in varying colors and degrees of heat in many of them.   They will all be used in oh-so-many recipes that I’ll be posting this summer.  One of them will be my

Chilled Gazpacho with Shrimp, Topped with Garlic Croutons & Basil
Chilled Gazpacho with Shrimp, Topped with Garlic Croutons & Basil

Gazpacho recipe, which is topped with garlic croutons and shrimp.  I hope you’ll follow my blog and download the recipe when I post it in a few months.  It needs a bit more testing before sharing.  Hurry up, summer!

Do you have summer menu dreams to share, or winter complaints?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Food Magazine Treasures: Serrano Ham and Corn Pudding

I have "food magazine sprawl" and I'm not sorry.
I have “food magazine sprawl” and I’m not sorry.

For years, food magazines have piled up on surfaces everywhere in my house, with their tempting glossy cover photos of each month’s culinary treasure.  I subscribed to Bon Appetít in my early 20s, almost before I could afford it, and felt bereft along with about a million other subscribers when Gourmet magazine shut down.  Cook’s Illustrated is another favorite, and who doesn’t love Saveur or Food & Wine?

These and other culinary magazines do so many things for cooks:  take us on virtual trips to exotic places and make the different cuisines accessible, expand our ideas about what’s good, teach us new tricks and expose use to new kitchen gadgets, and inspire us to elevate our cooking game.  They also connect us with recipes that become staples in our kitchen, like this 2005 recipe for Serrano Ham and Corn Pudding that can now be found in Epicurious.

Serrano Ham and Corn Pudding photo from Epicurious.

This is truly a fantastic recipe.

I encourage you to try it.  Made as written, the dish is spicy comfort food that serves as a terrific side dish. I have served it at Thanksgiving instead of the traditional creamed corn, as a side for barbecue instead of the predictable potato salad or corn, or even as a main dish for a weeknight dinner with a simple salad to complement it.  Yum.

You can really kick this recipe around and it still performs for you.  Try substituting a different meat (chopped ham, smoked turkey, andouille sausage) or leaving out the meat altogether.  You can use a different cheese, such as cheddar or Monterrey jack, substitute cream for the sour cream, corn meal instead of masa, vary the kinds of peppers – everything I’ve tried out of creativity or convenience has worked. I LOVE THIS RECIPE.  If I can settle on a single favorite variation that’s different enough, I’ll add it to the Glover Gardens Cookbook.

Leave me a comment if you intend to try your hand at the Serrano Ham and Corn Pudding.  I’d love to hear what you think of it.

Antipasto Fresca

Only a half hour’s notice that guests are coming and in need of an appetizer?  These fun little finger food treats can be pulled together in ten minutes.  At Glover Gardens, we have two of the ingredients always on hand – the oregano and the tomatoes.  In the summer, they are abundant in the garden, and in the winter, we buy imports from warmer climates and dream of spring.

This is a perfect appetizer for a wine tasting party, an outdoor barbecue or even a ladies’ afternoon tea.

12-14 grape tomatoes, sliced in half sideways
1-2 oz. mozzarella fresca, cut in 12-14 small chunks to sandwich within the tomatoes
2 green onions, cut in 1/4 diagonal slivers
4 long sprigs fresh oregano
Course sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Antipasto Caprese
Antipasto Fresca

Cooking Instructions
Thread half of a grape tomato onto a toothpick, followed by a large oregano leaf, a segment of the mozzarella, then the second half of the tomato. Finish the mini-skewer by adding a green onion section to the end. Repeat with the rest of the tomatoes and arrange on a small serving plate. Drizzle with a small amount of olive oil, the sprinkle with sea salt and several grindings of fresh black pepper. Garnish with some of the remaining fresh oregano.

Copyright 2015, Glover Gardens Cookbook


Spring Greens and Green Apple Salad

It’s time for spring!  Enough already with the ground hog’s prediction.  This salad is a perfect first course for a Welcome Spring dinner party.

The Spring Greens and Green Apple Salad Sparkles on the Plate
The Spring Greens and Green Apple Salad Sparkles on the Plate

4-6 cups mixed spring greens
2 celery stalks, cut in thin diagonal slices
2 small green apples, cored and thinly sliced
1/2 small red onion, sliced
1/2 cup toasted pecans, roughly chopped
1 small chunk of Asiago, Manchego, or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shaved
1 tbsp. white wine vinegar
1 tbsp. cider vinegar
1 small shallot, minced (about 1 tbsp.)
1 tsp. chopped fresh herbs (thyme, oregano, basil or any combination)
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Cooking Instructions
In a medium salad bowl, toss greens with celery, apples, onion and pecans. In a small bowl combine the vinegars, shallot and herbs, then slowly whisk in the olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Toss with the salad and serve, garnishing with shaved cheese.
The tartness of the apples and crunch of the pecans and celery make the Spring Greens & Green Apple Salad a great accompaniment to a rich or spicy main course. Add blueberries or raspberries for more color and variety. Leftovers are great added to a sandwich or in a wrap.

This salad is fun for dinner party guests to put together while you’re finishing the main course. Just put the tools and ingredients on a big cutting board ahead of time and give the guests their assignment along with a glass of wine.

Our friends Nancy and David tested the recipe for us at a dinner party and gave the salad – and the experience – rave reviews.