Foodie Friday: Summer on a plate

23 Aug
August 23, 2014

August is the month of total abundance in my kitchen garden. So much is ready for picking that it’s getting pretty challenging to keep up with it all!

I absolutely love eating veggies and fruit right out of the garden, and hate the thought of any of this beautiful stuff (that’s at its peak of flavor) going to waste. So with such abundance comes overload. What to do?

My go-to summer meal…..a fabulous salad. Now, my salad is not ordinary by any means. You see, I “build” my salads. And the building parts must be colorful, textural, and diversified in flavor.

If I’m preparing for a larger group, I’ll create this fresh masterpiece in one super-sized bowl. But for an intimate dinner for 4 or less, I have to admit, my favorite way to build salads is on individual dinner plates taking everyone’s preferences into account.

Either way (just like flower arranging) I always start with a foundation of mixed greens. And every time I layer in different parts, I have a whole new flavor combination that keeps it new and interesting.

 

The Salad Parts (not necessarily all at the same time)

Assorted fresh greens: Bib lettuce, Red leaf lettuce, Bib lettuce, Mesclun, Endive, Arugula, Spinach, Swiss Chard

Tomatoes (large tomatoes quartered, cherry tomatoes halved)

Peppers (thinly sliced lengthwise and cut in half)

Radishes (thinly sliced)

Cucumbers (thinly sliced)

Onions (thinly sliced and cut in half)

Haricot Vert (whole or cut)

Hard boiled eggs (quartered)

Smoked Bacon (chopped or crumbled)

Smoked Cheddar Cheese (cubed)

Grilled chicken breast (sliced or chopped)

Grilled shrimp or scallops (whole)

Croutons (Homemade or in a pinch I love to use John Wm. Macy’s Cheese Crisps)

Fresh herbs: Thyme, Oregano, Marjoram, Tarragon, Chives, Basil (coursely chopped)

Nasturtium flowers

Chive flowers

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

*A big hit around here for a salad dressing is Julia Child’s recipe for vinaigrette: http://www.connecticutcountryhouse.com/2012/05/a-perfect-little-vinaigrette/

Enjoy!

Love, Nora

 

 

 

Sweet recycling

13 Aug
August 13, 2014

Every morning on our mini-vaca in the 1000 Islands in Canada, I reached for a glass that was neatly stacked in the kitchen cabinet of my dear friend Holly’s lakeside country house. Whether it was to be filled with water from the tap (a filtered version of lake water) or chilled OJ, the glass was always just the right size.

Those neatly stacked glasses were jars, and they were formerly filled with my very favorite French jam – Bonne Maman. What a perfect size, and what a great idea- especially for outdoor entertaining!

From now on, those empty jars of Bonne Maman will be spared from my recycling bins, and will make a great collection for my kitchen glassware cabinet.

Thanks Holly!

Love, Nora

 

 

 

 

 

Sail away

06 Aug
August 6, 2014

“When you can’t change the direction of the wind – adjust your sails.”   H. Jackson Brown Jr.

Wishing you an easy breezy day.

Love, Nora

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