A late summer show

08 Sep
September 8, 2014

The entrance to the old house was lingering in an in-between state. All summer the rustic twig basket hanging by the door was the perfect scale and spot for a big dramatic hanging pot of bright pink and purple petunias.

Sadly, it’s inevitable…the pretty petunias are now way they’re past their prime, and really need to go into the compost. And since I’m not ready to commit to a fall look just yet, I’m replacing the dying petunias with a very much thriving perennial – Clematis Paniculata, also known as Sweet Autumn Clematis.

The first beautiful thing about this fabulously frothy climber is that she’s a late summer bloomer (I can relate) and is covered in drifts of lightly fragrant pure white flowers. Once I got her home, I didn’t even have to take her out of the pot. I just popped her into that big rustic twig basket and voila!  Instant showstopper!

The second beautiful thing is that once she’s done blooming, she’ll have a new home either climbing the old stone wall in the front of the house, or make her presence known by turning up the volume on the white picket fence of the kitchen garden. Both spots are partly sunny and would work well with what’s already established.

Which spot would you choose? 

Love, Nora

 

 

Simple Stuff: Spotless glasses

03 Sep
September 3, 2014

It’s the simple stuff in life that gives me great joy. And the simple joy of crystal clear glasses is right up there with picking the season’s first ripe red tomato!

For you folks who (like me) wash their drinking glasses by hand, start with a sink filled with hot soapy water and be sure to rinse with very cold water (I learned this little trick from friends in the catering business).

As for drying a boat-load of glasses? For years, I would over stuff my dish drainer and leave glasses in very precarious positions. Then there were the days of drip-drying the glasses up-side down on countertops lined with layers of kitchen towels, only to wait forever for them to un-fog.

Finally, I stumbled upon the best simple solution (a big-duh and why didn’t I think of this before moment?!)…why not lay out sheet pans and cover them with my cookie cooling racks?

Don’t you just love things that multi-task so beautifully?

Keeping it spotless in Connecticut!

Love, Nora

 

Foodie Friday: Marvelous Murph Burgers

30 Aug
August 30, 2014

I was all set to post our Pesto Tastings today for Foodie Friday (to be posted at a later date), but had a change of mind and heart seeing that the Labor Day holiday weekend is upon us. Thinking of this picnicking cook-out weekend…I’m thinking of really good burgers on the grill. And when I think of really good burgers, all I can think of are the really great burgers Murph always makes.

We call them Murph Burgers. And they are simply fantastic.

Marvelous Murph Burgers

1 – 1 1/2 pounds ground sirloin (makes 3-4 whopping big burgers)

To make the dry rub:

3 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning

3 tablespoons garlic powder

2 tablespoons ancho powder

  • Preheat grill.
  • Mix together all three ingredients on a plate.
  • Form each burger (making sure not to overwork) and press both sides into the dry rub mixture.
  • Making sure the grill is really hot, place burgers on the rack and do not press down with spatula (important tip in keeping them moist), and flip only once.
  • After removing from the grill (mine is always the last one to come off), let them rest for a few minutes.
  • Serve on a toasted split English muffin, and top off with a thickly sliced ripe garden tomato, onion, and a crisp lettuce leaf. Done.

Enjoy and please let me know how you like them.

Wishing you a terrific holiday weekend!

Love, Nora

 

 

 

A country road

27 Aug
August 27, 2014

A beautiful summer afternoon…time to switch gears and go for a walk.  And a late summer afternoon “stretch” with friends (on a visit to upstate New York) is even better.

“I guess my feet know where they want me to go walking on a country road.” –  James Taylor

Enjoy.

Love, Nora

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: Bibb lettuce, Red leaf 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