Zucchini Carpaccio with Avocado and Pistachios

Zucchini CarpaccioVeggie Supreme
Something major happened over the weekend that hasn’t happened in a couple of years—I managed to eek out a few hours over the weekend to plant some tomatoes. While that may not seem like a major event to some of you, for me it’s a big deal. For the last two years, the lack of water in California and the voracious appetites of my chickens have combined to leave me summer garden-less. And, that is unacceptable.

The lack of water was something I couldn’t control. Luckily, we got a decade’s worth of precipitation in the span of what seemed like a week so THAT is no longer an obstacle. (Okay, that may be a bit of an exaggeration. Maybe.) All I know is it seemed like someone left the hose running this winter and I am more than ready for it to shut off.

The chicken thing was a different surprise altogether. Who knew that ravenous chickens were one of the seven plagues of the bible? Locusts yes. Chickens not so much. By the destruction left in their path, my walking squawking composters proved that they can more than hold their own against any end of days infestation. My girls were thorough. They ate every plant down to the ground. There was nothin’ left. I’m talking moonscape.  Since then they have been allowed to roam amongst my planter boxes scratching for bugs and taking dirt baths while at the same time turning over the soil and fertilizing. I figure it was the least they could do.

Now the girls are back on their side of the yard giving me the stink eye through the slats in the fence. I think they are plotting something. They have that look…

So far I have only been able to get the tomatoes in. I’m hoping to plant cucumbers, peppers, carrots, and maybe some melons. I’m going to try for peas too. But, it may just be too late. And, I’m tempted to grow zucchini. However, the last time, my husband threatened to have lawyers on the phone if I made him eat anymore. But, I love it, so he may just have to deal. Mainly because I can’t wait to eat recipes like this Zucchini Carpaccio with Avocado and Pistachios on the back patio.

It will be many weeks before I can harvest squash from my garden. But, in the meantime, the zucchini on our produce shelves is looking pretty tasty. You can make this dish now, and dream of summertime.

Zucchini Carpaccio with Avocado and Pistachios
Adapted from Patricia Wells and Food 52
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Gam’s Sunday Dinner Spoonbread

Gam's Sunday Dinner SpoonbreadThe Kitchen Table
Years ago when we remodeled our house, I remember having conversations with the architect about features in my kitchen that I wanted to have a certain way. And, I remember him saying things like If you do that your kids will always leave their backpacks there. or You need to make sure there is space here because this is where everyone will be hanging out.

He was right of course. Everyone is always in the kitchen. Whether it is Thursday night or we’re having a dinner party—everyone always ends up in the kitchen.

It makes sense really. Many of the important events (and even the not so important things) that have happened in my life have happened or have been discussed while we were seated, usually but not always, having a meal around the kitchen table.

Growing up, we had dinner together every night around the kitchen table. We would talk about what happened during our day. If we were exceptionally lucky and the conversation was lively, some of us were covertly able to slip the dog whatever offensive veggie happened to be on the plate that night. No matter what, the kitchen table was where we met after a day of going our separate ways.

Later in life, it was where engagements and babies were announced or lost lives were celebrated. But, always the kitchen table was where we came together.

It’s no different in my home. We eat together at the table in the kitchen every night (that we don’t have a sporting event). My kitchen table is where our friends come to hang out and eat and play the occasional NSFW card game. It is where the homework gets done and the epic Monopoly beat-downs occur.

Without out a doubt, it is the center of our home.

When we decided to change the name of our weekly recipe blog, The Kitchen Table was pretty much the first idea to pop into my head. And nothing else we came up with seemed to make as much sense. For the most part, I try to make this blog not just about a bunch of recipes and food, but also about good stories and interesting experiences. I would love to think that most people can relate to them, or at the very least be entertained. (I do have my quirks…)

So, without further ado, I am happy to announce that going forward What’s For Dinner Wednesday shall now be known as The Kitchen Table. And, I hope that you get as much enjoyment and food for the soul out of this Kitchen Table as I have had from mine.

When thinking about family gatherings around the table my tastes gravitate towards the comforts of Southern style cooking. So, with that in mind, Gam’s Sunday Dinner Spoonbread is a favorite southern-inspired family recipe that has been enjoyed many times around our kitchen table.

Gam’s Sunday Dinner Spoonbread
This is one of those down-home recipes that always reminds me of our dinners at my grandmother’s house. So good served warm with melted butter, and a perfect accompaniment to any BBQ.
Yields 6 servings
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Roast Lamb Shoulder with Date Couscous

Roast Lamb Shoulder with Date CouscousOn The Lamb
Growing up, we always had lamb for Easter. There may have been the occasional ham but I always associate lamb (and my grandmother’s purple water goblets) with Easter.

I have a very clear picture in my mind of my grandmother carving the leg of lamb with an electric knife (!) and with each slice she may or may not have encountered a whole garlic clove that she had stuffed into the meat. I also remember the tiny metal containers for the mint jelly. The leg of lamb was always tasty, the mint jelly not so much. Back then, traditional roasted leg of lamb or the occasional broiled lamb chop with rosemary was pretty much the limit of my exposure to lamb. Nowadays though, when I think of eating or cooking lamb my tastes run to the Middle East.

No matter the occasion, if I am cooking with lamb chances are the flavors are going to be North African or Middle Eastern in nature. Easter dinner is no different. Harissa has thankfully replaced the mint jelly on the table and potatoes have made way for the couscous. So, depending on how formal we want to be, dinner can be lamb kebabs with pita and hummus or a roast shoulder with couscous and date stuffing. And there is always this family favorite, Moroccan Lamb Tangine.

I think this year because I feel the need to make an effort, I’m doing the Roast Lamb Shoulder with Date Couscous. It’s been a while since I have made Moroccan food and this is the perfect time to dust off a favorite recipe!

Roast Lamb Shoulder with Date Couscous
Adapted from Arabesque by Claudia Roden
Serves 4 to 5

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Iced Cinnamon Rolls

Iced Cinnamon RollsHow We Roll…
So, I would like to apologize. Apparently, I tempted fate, irritated the gods, and spoke too soon last week when I said it looked like the rain was finally over. Sigh.

This week is Spring Break and I had plans. Big ones. I couldn’t take the whole week off—but I did take Thursday and Friday off thinking it would give me four days to plant my summer garden. Yeah, not so much. The “weather” is supposed to come in on Thursday, unleash its fury on Friday, with a little leftover for Saturday. Great. It’s hard to plant in mud!

Now I find myself with a couple of free days and a whole lotta free time on my hands. So, I have decided that I am going to do some baking and make the things that I haven’t had the time to do in months.

I will be making bread and I am sure there will be some sort of cookie. I might even get nutty and pull out the ice cream maker and do cookie ice cream sandwiches. My daughter will probably want to make some fresh pasta, which is cool. The one think I know I will be making is iced cinnamon rolls.

I love cinnamon rolls. I like ‘em with nuts and without. I like ‘em hot and I like ‘em cold. I like ‘em big and I like ‘em bite size. And, of course, I like ‘em with lots of icing! You can’t go wrong with a cinnamon roll. The one problem is that you can’t just whip up a batch. It takes a little planning and some time, which I have had in short supply lately. (Hard to make cinnamon rolls when you have to be at the field by 9 AM.)

The good news is that you can make these and freeze them to pull out on a future lazy morning.

Iced Cinnamon Rolls
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cinnamon Rolls 101
Yields 8 servings

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Chicken and Garlic Fricassee with Sweet Garlic Confit

Chicken and Garlic Fricassee with Sweet Garlic ConfitFrench Roots
I feel like we have finally turned a corner. As I look out my window at the clear blue skies I actually think that, maybe, hopefully, please dear lord let it be true, the rain could possibly be over? The calendar says spring after all….

Spring is a welcome occurrence. Weather is probably the most important reason, with Baseball as a very close second. But, for me, it is also a time when I flip a switch on my cooking. As new spring produce comes into market my dinners get lighter and fresher. And consistently, they get French-er.

I always seem to circle back to French food in the spring. Maybe it’s that whole Spring rebirth thing. Cooking French food gets me back to basic techniques so that I can go forth and innovate. Kind of like a spring cleaning for my culinary mind. Clean out all of the winter recipes and start fresh.

I have a number of French cookbooks and one of my favorite authors is Patricia Wells. Since moving to France in 1980, she has become an expert in French cooking with an emphasis on the Provence region where she opened her acclaimed cooking school.

This Chicken and Garlic Fricassee is very French—and very garlicy—but in the best way possible. The garlic confit is a must, so you will need to plan ahead for this one. The original recipe calls for a whole chicken cut into 8 parts. I prefer to do this with bone-in chicken thighs

Joyeux printemps à tous!

Chicken and Garlic Fricassee with Sweet Garlic Confit
Adapted from The Provence Cookbook by Patricia Wells

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