Foodie Friday: Sea to Table

31 Jul
July 31, 2014

It all starts with the love of fishing. And for Murph, that LOVE is spelled out in all caps.

At the break of dawn, with two of his best buds, Murph was off to Niantic to fish on board the Blackhawk with Captain Greg. The trip was a great success with plenty of fluke fishing around Montauk, the very end of Long Island.

There’s absolutely nothing fishy tasting about freshly caught fish. And when you marry that fish with freshly picked veggies from the garden – well let’s just say it’s the merging of two very delicious worlds.

Throw in steamed corn on the cob for the side, and you’re tasting a little bit of summer on Long Island!

Montauk Baked Fluke

Fluke filets

Fresh basil (chopped)

Fresh arugula (chopped)

Green pepper and onion (sliced and sauteed)

Tomatoes (thinly sliced)

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Cover a cookie sheet with foil and spray with oil.
  • Place each filet on sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Add the chopped basil and arugula to each filet.
  • Add sauteed green peppers and onions to each filet.
  • Top each filet with tomato slices.
  • Bake for 20 minutes. Serve immediately.

Enjoy!

Love, Nora

(To find out more about fishing on the Blackhawk, go to www.blackhawksportfishing.com)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday with Ann

15 Jul
July 15, 2014

I couldn’t believe I was sitting across the table fom her. Ann Nyberg of WTNH Channel 8 in New Haven, Connecticut has been someone that I have admired for quite a long time, and now I was invited to her “kitchen table” smack dab in the middle of the TV station’s sound studio for Ann’s Nyberg on-line interview. For me, I so loved talking with her that it felt more like a conversation with a long lost friend than an actual interview. She’s one beautiful person – inside and out. And I must say, for the record, that she has the best hair I have ever seen!

Ann and I have a lot in common, starting with the fact that we both love Connecticut. She truly is a champion for our state – bringing attention to Connecticut’s best kept secrets – Connecticut Country House qualifying as one of them! It turns out that Ann has tuned into this blog and the e-mag for some time now, and loves the foundation that I’m building on. This in itself made my day.

For more of Connecticut’s best kept secrets (no more!), go on http://networkconnecticut.com/ 

Thanks very much Ann for letting the cat out of the bag.

Love, Nora

Foodie Friday for the 4th!

04 Jul
July 4, 2014

This weekend celebrate with a tasty red, creamy white, and purpley blue.

The ingredients of this quick and easy-peasy dessert may differ just a little bit, but the cooking technique is the same for both.

All you have to do is wash, hull, cut, add, mix, heat, boil, stir, simmer, cool, scoop, spoon, drizzle, share (maybe), and enjoy!

Country House Blueberry Sauce

4 cups fresh blueberries (wash and pick stems off)

1-cup water

1/2 cup sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch (dissolve in 3 tablespoons water)

  • Add 3 cups (set aside 1 cup) washed blueberries to a medium-sized saucepan. Add water and sugar. On medium-high heat bring to a boil.
  • Turn down heat to low, add dissolved cornstarch and gently mix. Bring to a boil again,then turn down heat again to simmer for a few minutes, and stir as needed.
  • The sauce should be nice and thick. Add the last cup of blueberries that have been set aside into the hot mixture and stir. Remove from heat and let cool. Serve at room temperature or refrigerate until ready to serve.

Country House Strawberry Sauce

4 cups strawberries (washed, hulled, and quartered)

1/2 cup sugar

1/3 cup orange juice

1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch (dissolve in 3 tablespoons water)

  • Add 3 cups (set aside 1 cup) strawberries to a medium-sized saucepan. Add water and sugar. On medium-high heat bring to a boil.
  • Turn down heat to low, add dissolved cornstarch and gently mix. Bring to a boil again,then turn down heat again to simmer for a few minutes, and stir as needed.
  • The sauce should be nice and thick. Add the last cup of strawberries that have been set aside into the hot mixture and stir. Remove from heat and let cool. Serve at room temperature or refrigerate until ready to serve.

I like adding the last cup of fruit at the very end of the cooking process – it adds nice texture.

Happy Independence Day!

Love, Nora

 

Summer’s here!

26 Jun
June 26, 2014

“Summer afternoon, summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.” – Henry James

I hope the new summer issue of Nora Murphy Country House Style will help you get into Mr. James’ frame of mind…enjoy!

www.noramurphycountryhouse.com

Happy summer!

Love, Nora

A good summer haircut

20 Jun
June 20, 2014

The time has come. Plants that have wintered indoors and are now in summer residence outdoors (on the other side of their  window) need a little sprucing up.

All the potted topiaries got snipped. Easy enough, just follow the shape and with a pair of clippers or sharp scissors – snip! You can’t snip off too much, because ‘tis the season for promoting growth!

Now when it comes to my big ol’ shaggy pair of ferns, that’s a different story. Where to start?

The pair is happy for the most part during the winter, but by spring they start to get leggy and a little crispy in parts. They’re so happy when they get hauled out to their summer spot – on the stone steps in front of the front door of the old house. They love it there. A little direct sun (mostly reflected sunlight), but mostly cool shade. They have plenty of air circulation due to the higher altitude of where they’re perched.

But, they get even happier when I come at them with a pair of sharp scissors. Lots of the not-so-good-looking leaves are begging to be gone. And so I start to snip (feeling a little like Edward Scissorhands).

Don’t be afraid, you may just be as surprised as I was, when I noticed the healthy tuft of spring green new growth had already started to emerge! That really built my confidence in forging ahead with those shears.

When all was said and done, I stepped back and looked at the stone steps. There piled high, were the old ratty-looking cut fronds on the ground, and fresh, new, beautiful fern plants right there in front of me. Magic.

Happy gardening!

Love, Nora

The greatest gifts

15 Jun
June 15, 2014

The very best things I remember about my dad were the littlest things.

My parents came to America during the 1956 Hungarian revolution. Like so many refugees, they arrived with one small (carry-on size) suitcase. Before the ripe age of 30, they found themselves reinventing their life together. And so the little things began.

Over the next 4 decades, I would learn a lot from their reinvention. My dad had a quiet strength (he was a Leo after all) that he consistently modeled. He was a great listener, and was always interested in what you had to share. And as a quiet man, when he spoke, I really listened.

He was also a very thoughtful man. As a little girl who loved to draw, he would occasionally surprise me with a little rubber-banded bundle of professional pencils (ranging from 6B to 6H) and introduced me to the world beyond the standard yellow number 2 pencil. I think this was his little humble way of encouraging my craft.

As little kids, we loved to grocery shop with my dad. Mom was not so keen on this weekly excursion because we always ended up coming home with bags full of fabulous extra goodies like popsicles, cookies, and potato chips. From an early age (maybe it was those early shopping sprees or maybe it was in my DNA) I was a potato chip hound. Even as an adult, my dad fostered this habit and always kept a fresh unopened bag of chips (preferably Wise potato chips) waiting for me when I came to visit. As soon as I sat down in the kitchen, he headed for ‘the chip cabinet’ and quickly popped open the bag. Always. 

Thinking back, he had so many of these little giving moments. And the best thing about these acts of kindness is that he was just so consistent. To this day, these are just some of the things that make me smile and cry at the same time. Every single time I toss a bag of chips into my shopping cart, or buy a box of “good” pencils, I think of my sweet dad.

Wishing you a very happy Father’s Day!

With lots of love, Nora

Create an heirloom cookbook

12 Jun
June 12, 2014

If you’re looking for a very special gift to make for a bride-to-be…something she’ll cherish forever…this is it.

My God daughter Aileen’s bridal shower is featured in the current spring issue of my e-mag (http://noramurphycountryhouse.com/magazine/spring-2014/country-house-wedding). As the shower was winding down, one gift (and probably the most personal) was saved for last – a homemade cookbook made up of Aileen’s family and friends’ favorite and heirloom recipes. Holly (Aileen’s mom and my dear friend of 40+ years) was the brains behind this idea, and I was her sidekick in the operation. I’ve never considered myself a crafty person. Little did I realize that this cookbook project would turn me into one.

We started very simply by requesting recipes to be e-mailed to us (or sent via snail mail) in the bridal shower invitation. The typed or handwritten recipes came flooding in and included breakfast, appetizers, main courses, side dishes, desserts, and drinks. Many of the recipes are Aileen’s childhood favorites, including Aunt Babu’s Tea Time Tassies.

With supplies in hand, Holly and I got busy and started our production. I never thought I would deliberate so much over what patterned paper was best suited for each recipe (a spicy chili recipe has a very different vibe from a frosted cake recipe), as well as the perfect placement of every little decorative doo-dad. The further along we got, the more obsessed we were to make this the most charming recipe book ever.

The ingredients:

  • Photo/scrap book from your local craft store
  • Extra filler pages
  • Patterned paper (ours was packaged as a pad)
  • Good quality stickers (fabric flowers add a lot of dimension)
  • Spray adhesive
  • Metal straight edge
  • Cutting board

It truly was a labor of love…and best of all, Aileen loved it.

Love, Nora

 

Rustic elegance

09 Jun
June 9, 2014

I was counting the flower buds on my Peonies…43 and counting! (Yippee!) The Lady’s Mantle beds, right outside the kitchen door, are growing fuller, taller, and more chartreuse by the day, while the wild roses have re-seeded themselves in droves behind the house. It’s June, so that means it’s “showtime” in my  cutting gardens!

It’s time to start making some bouquets – a great big impressive one for the front parlor, and a sweet little one for the powder room.

Here’s how:

  • Cut flowers early in the day.
  • Try to cut stems as long as you can (this way you’ll have more to work with).
  • Use an unusual container. I like to use old painted metal pails, wood buckets, and old crocks.
  • Line old containers with plastic inserts. They can be found at your local hardware/paint store, or the plastic packaging from a store-bought cake.
  • Fill with cool water.
  • The bottom of woody stems need to be smashed with a hammer so they’ll drink the water.
  • Start arrangement with stems that have the most foliage.
  • Keep turning the arrangement while arranging stems.
  • For small bouquets that have short stems, tie stems together with string or jute before placing into the container (this will help the bouquet stay in place).

For any size bouquet, when you think you’re done, stand back and look at the whole arrangement from different angles. It’s easy to readjust stems by gently pushing some in, and pulling some out.

Happy arranging and enjoy!

Love, Nora

 

Planting tomatoes

02 Jun
June 2, 2014

Just got back with a beautiful batch of organic tomato plants (their names and descriptions were so intriguing, I had a tough time walking away without buying one of everything).

Murph added our home-aged compost we call ‘Black Gold’ to the soil, and tilled to incorporate it well. We pulled lines for each row, leaving enough space for walking and weeding. With my trusty hoe, I mounded the soil of each row, and spaced plants about 18-24-inches apart (good air circulation is important).

When it comes to planting tomatoes, I learned a couple of tricks from my Dad – my gardening guru.

  1. Before planting, it’s important to break off the bottom leaves on the plant to promote growth.
  2. It’s best to place each plant on its side (I know this looks weird but it really works), and cover the roots well with soil. The plants will rise to reach towards the sunlight, and the stem underground will naturally take root and give the young plants a more stable foundation to grow on. This always made perfect sense to me, because by August these plantings would become top heavy with branches and fruit.

Once planted, be sure to water well. As far as staking goes, I wait until their growth really kicks into gear, and with jute twine I gently tie branches to bamboo hoops that I stake well into the ground.

Now I let nature do its thing….

Happy gardening!

Love, Nora

Foodie Friday: Sweet Summer Sandwiches

23 May
May 23, 2014

This weekend unofficially kicks off summer, so let’s make an event of it and make some ice cream sandwiches!

The idea of dedicating an afternoon to ice cream sandwich-making with kids (or sweet-toothed adults) is a lot of fun…and let’s face it, it’s hard to beat the combo of fresh cold ice cream and home made chewy cookies. The only thing that takes it over the top is to give the sandwich makers some sprinkle options and let ‘em roll!

Old-fashioned Soft Sugar Cookies (3-4 dozen, depending on size)

Adapted from an old recipe that is described as a “County Fair Winner”! (Enough said.)

1 cup butter (softened and cubed)

2 cups sugar

3 eggs

1 cup buttermilk

4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (sifted)

1 teaspoon baking soda

Pinch of salt

1/4 cup vanilla extract

Granulated sugar crystals (optional)

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • With mixer, cream the butter and sugar until well mixed. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each one. Add buttermilk.
  • In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, and baking powder and add to creamed mixture.
  • Add 1/4 cup of vanilla and blend well.
  • Let dough rest for 10 minutes.
  • Using a tablespoon, drop tablespoon scoops onto a greased cookie sheet. Lightly press with spoon to flatten.
  • Sprinkle with granulated sugar.
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes, and transfer cookies to wire rack to cool completely.

Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Cookies (3-4 dozen, depending on size)

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup butter (softened and cubed)

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large eggs

1 (12 ounces) package of semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 cup nuts (optional)

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  • In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt.
  • In a larger mixing bowl, beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla extract. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each one.
  • Gradually beat in flour mixture.
  • Stir in chocolate chips (and nuts are optional).
  • Using a tablespoon, drop tablespoon scoops onto a greased cookie sheet. Lightly press with spoon to flatten.
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes, and transfer cookies to wire rack to cool completely.
Have fun and enjoy your weekend!
Love, Nora