RaeDi at Hummingbird Hollow

Thoughts on Food, Words from the Heart, 'The Little Winged Ones'….

Tag: Blog

Mushroom Potato Soup with Chicken Liver Pâté

 

It has been an amazing week here in the Northwest, lots of sunshine and of course there has been some rain, but what would the Northwest be without the drizzle?  I have lost count of all the new hummingbirds, the new-comer Rufus’s and add lots more Anna’s arriving for the new season.  It will be at least another month before we see any Calliope’s.  The Allen’s usually live on the outskirts and visit regularly.  They are in the process of working out all of the logistics… all the planning of who will live where and who has control of what feeder and then when the wildflowers bloom in the fields and my hummingbird plants start to bloom they will have to start again!   Not to say that we do not hear bickering going on out there.  What is life without a little internal strife and squabbling among friends?

T has his manly meal the other day and I was trying to think of something different to make for dinner… something we had not had in a long time.  I am one of those souls who dearly loves Liver Pâté… I usually have it once a year either during the Christmas Holidays or like a year ago for Valentine’s Dinner.  With my Mother being sick since right before Christmas and then her passing just before Valentine’s Day we did not do much special this year… no Liver Pâté.

Liver Pâté came to my thoughts and I could not get rid of the wanting of… no the craving of it would be more like it.  I love to spread some on lightly toasted baguette… I could just taste it.  Then I wondered what would we have with it… another thing I dearly love is Mushroom soup.  Homemade Mushroom soup that is thick and creamy now I had a meal that I was going to make no matter what.  I wonder what T would think… was he in a mood for Liver Pâté and thick, creamy Mushroom Soup.  When I told him I was making a list of things I needed from the market for dinner he asked what I was fixing… I let him know and he said it sounded good to him.  He was even willing to go to market and get the few things I needed to make the meal… what a relief because I did not feel for the trip to town today.

I found this recipe several years ago from Food and Wine and started using it and it has been my favorite since.  Very easy to make and it is silky-smooth… it melts in your mouth.

 

  

Chicken Liver Pâté

Ingredients:

  •         1/2 pound chicken livers, well-trimmed (I only use organic chicken livers)
  •         1/2 small onion, thinly sliced
  •         1 small garlic clove, smashed and peeled
  •         1 bay leaf
  •         1/4 teaspoon thyme leaves
  •         Kosher salt
  •         1/2 cup water
  •         1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
  •         2 teaspoons Cognac or Scotch whisky
  •         Freshly ground pepper
  •         Toasted baguette slices, for serving

In a medium saucepan, combine the chicken livers, onion, garlic, bay leaf, thyme and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Add the water and bring to a simmer. Cover; reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the livers are barely pink inside, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes.    

Discard the bay leaf. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the livers, onion and garlic to a food processor; process until coarsely pureed. With the machine on, add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, until incorporated. Add the Cognac, season with salt and pepper and process until completely smooth. Scrape the pâté into 2 or 3 large ramekins. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pâté and refrigerate until firm. Serve chilled.

Make Ahead: The pâté can be covered with a thin layer of melted butter, then wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 2 months.

 

 

Potato and Mushroom Soup

Ingredients:

  •         1 cup oyster mushrooms (1/2 ounce) (slice up several and reserve)
  •         1 cup shiitake mushrooms (1 ounce) (slice up several and reserve)
  •         3/4 cup crimini mushrooms (3/4 ounce) (slice up several and reserve)
  •         2 cloves of minced garlic
  •         1 finely chopped onion
  •        1 stalk of celery chopped up finely
  •         1 ½ cups water
  •         1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  •         2 leeks, white and light green parts only, sliced very thin
  •         5 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
  •         2 large baking potatoes finely diced
  •         1 teaspoon finely chopped thyme leaves
  •         2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  •         Salt and freshly ground pepper
  •         1 cup of cream (I used fat-free half n half instead)
  •         Crusty bread, for serving

 

Finely chop the mushrooms, onions and celery (I used my food processor.)  Mince the garlic.   Place all in pan with water and bring to boil, turn down heat and simmer until mushrooms and onions are tender.  I let this boil down a little to make a headier broth, do not overcook the mix.

Meanwhile, in a soup pot, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the leeks and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add the stock, reserved sliced mushrooms, potatoes, and the mix you have already cooked, along with the thyme (I did not have any thyme so used parsley) to the pot.  Cook over moderate heat until the potatoes are done, about 20 minutes. Stir in the cream and butter and season the soup with salt and pepper.  Serve in shallow bowls with crusty bread.

This soup is amazing; if anything I would add more mushrooms.  It is a nice thick, creamy soup that you can taste each level of the ingredients.  The leeks make a wonderful addition.  You can make this without any cream or half n half and it is still very good.

T and I enjoyed the toasted baguette with the Liver Pâté immensely and the Mushroom and Potato Soup was a real treat that had so many layers of textures and full flavors each in its own right….

Excerpts from a Hummingbird Book I Wrote

 

Several years ago after spending countless hours (years) with my Little Winged Ones and reading anything I could get my hands on for information and then taking notes as I surveyed, scrutinized, examined and study them from every aspect one could… I decided to write a little book about the Little Winged Ones. 

I actually wrote the book backwards, doing the conclusion with all the information about them from migration to habitats, the flowers they liked, what kind of water sources they liked to you name it.  I was writing down everything that I saw, heard and read.  I found it quite exhilarating… as much so as the little hummingbirds themselves. 

I am now doing the illustrations for the little book.  I am having a blast doing each one.  I do not care how long it takes me, the time I put into the little book is very precious to me.  In the end whether I sale one copy or give them away it means little to the measure of pleasure they have given me.

The title of the little book is Midnight Nectar… this comes from a special part of this poem that I wrote… the hummingbird characters and personalities are what help set the title.  I do hope that each one of you enjoys the excerpts from the poem and a little from the books conclusions of as much information that I thought a reader would want and could enjoy, for those that asked for me to share sorry it took me so long….

 

Midnight Nectar  

The Little Winged Ones

 

 

I watch in wonderment at the little wings ones, the hummingbird’s flight of play.  Flashing the colors of their gorget, they cast beams of color like a prism in sunrays.  You see them flitting here and there, their iridescence feathers glowing, bright, shimmering, and radiating a mixture of colors as they dart from place to place…

 

The sight of each little winged ones impressive plumage is eye-catching as they put it on display.  All their colors of rufus, greens and blues, purple, and even copper are all blended and fused to see as they captivate.   Gold and orange, and reds dispersed in many different hues its contrast the identity enabler and too by their size and shapes…

 

They flash each their metallic colors as they put on a show, which is entertaining, sometimes comical as they engage with one another in as many ways.  They make musical notes from the exhilarated speed of their little wings with a constant whirling and hovering here, and their flights of speed so swift , look and see it is high, ever so high over there, each  its own everywhere…

 

Watch as the little winged ones ascend high out of sight then rapidly plummets with a “peep” as it promptly levels off just above the ground, then flies away, bright and smart and oh so quick on their uptake.  Amazing acts these little winged ones, what a show as they try to assert, contend, and outperform on a dare, which one will succeed, they are all very competitive…

All this takes lots of nectar the sweet juices is their food, their fuel.  Sit and watch as they linger at their chosen flowers all of pure raw flavor.   Sipping nectar for their flights and their games of play, watch it now as it makes the chase; it tags, and then it quickly flies away…

 

The hummingbirds I write about are those that spend spring, summer and the part of autumn here in the Pacific Northwest.  Four species that call our home theirs for part of the year are the Anna’s, Allen’s, Rufus, and the littlest of all the Calliope’s.  A few of the Anna’s Hummingbirds live here at Hummingbird Hollow year round.  They are very adaptive at surviving the winters that can get very cold, here in Washington State where the temperature can sometimes be in the 20’s degrees and at times a lot colder.  To survive the night, they fluff up their feathers and adjust their thermostats, decreasing their body temperatures by half and reducing their heart rate which can range can be up to 1260 beats per minute.  Their high body temperature of…

 

I observed for the first time several years ago a new, performance that was put on by a hummingbird during the hottest part of the summer.  The lawns were all golden brown from lack of rain.  While I was relaxing in the shade, I watched a hummingbird land on a slight slope where the wild grass was dried and the blades were all laying one on top of another on the ground.  The hummingbird landed and then commenced to lie down and settled on its belly in the dried grass as it spread it wings wide on both sides.  It laid there sunning itself for a long period time.  I was not only surprised but it intrigued me so.  I had never to date read anything on this behavior.  I thought maybe it was a fluke, but again I was thrilled to watch and scrutinize this same behavior on several occasions over the years after the fact of what seems to be a routine occurrence…

The little hummers never bore me, quite the opposite.  My interest and need to know more has never diminished, if anything I am like a sponge and try to gather and saturate my mind with as much information as I can.   I never tire of watching and studying them; I am thrilled beyond words at their courage to face anything head on.    They entertained me with all their antics and their pure stamina, with their staying power to weather any storm, and their determination in all of their actions.  They have never let me down.  This information is from the four species that live here at Hummingbird Hallow…

Hummingbirds need twice their weight in water every day.  They will drink the dew collected in leaves, or on grass and flowers.  Customary water sources such as birdbaths and in ground mini ponds and Koi Gardens will have to be specially adapted for the needs of the hummingbirds.  The hummingbirds and songbirds require very shallow water for drinking and bathing.  They do not like more than an inch and would prefer even less than that.  The birdbaths and such that we provide for other birds will need to be adapted for the little birds use.  You can add rocks, or you can lay a layer of sand for the correct water depth needed, even too use some small pebbles so they can enjoy and make use of your different water sources.   If need they will use the birdbaths and such but on a limited basic, by letting the tips of their wings dip in the water as they drop down and whiz across the water.   They two will dip their bills in for a quick drink.  Keep the birdbaths clean and give them fresh water every day during the hot summer months.  Here in the northwest even though we get lots of rain, I clean the birdbaths every day.  You want them sterile, you do not want them to pass on any disease(s) to each other and too there are many other birds that use the same water sources.  If you decide to put out feeders for the birds, be sure to keep them sterile, keep nectar fresh and put out only enough seeds for a few hours, we add to the feeders we use a couple of times a day.   Do not use any chemicals of any kind at any time… 

They love to play in the mist from water fountains. They will all join in and chase after one another and the mist drops.  There is much enjoyment to be had if you just take the time to watch them in all their energetic and enthusiastic high-spirited flights of play.  Always chasing one another, raindrops, water mist from fountains, even water from lawn and garden hoses (they love it when you are watering and do not mind that you are right there holding the hose.)  Remember to watch them playing chase with the snowflakes in the wintertime.  They seem never to exhaust their energies in whatever, they find to amuse themselves…

I hope you enjoyed the excerpts that I have chosen.  The book has not been edited at this point, if anyone knows a good book editor let me know… I need one bad….

(All of the photos I picked for this post are of Female Rufus Hummingbirds.)

Brisket Panini with Au Jus

On Sunday we had a basic roasted brisket with lots of onions and garlic.  It was delicious.  The decision was made because of Greg and Katherine at Rufus’ Food and Spirits Guide, take at a look at his brisket, how we could not crave brisket after seeing that.  It more than prompted T and me to have brisket something we had not had in a long time.

T did not want to barbecue with the weather being very cold, rainy with a snow and ice pellets mix and I could not blame him.

After said meal T asked if I would make Brisket Panini’s with some of the left over’s.  How could I deny him that, such a simple request… if we are going to have a sandwich/Panini night it is usually on Saturday but nothing is written in blood as to it having to be on Saturday only!

Instead of straining the brisket broth (au jus) I decided to leave all the goodness in and after dipping our Panini’s in… it would make a nice bit of onion-garlic soup… not the normal onion soup but it tasted just as good!

I added some grilled asparagus,  orange  slices and a pickle for good measure along with some corn chips and salsa… it was more than enough for anyone for a quick meal.  We both enjoyed having Panini’s on a weeknight….

Asparagus Pizza… Yearning for Spring

Decided that spring could not get here soon enough… but a little spring for dinner would be perfect.  A spring pizza was in order.  The crust was easy… I bought pizza dough at  Central Market already made for me.  I wanted dinner to be  very easy and it was!  Put a little hollandaise sauce on and threw on some veggies…  steamed spinach (pat between paper towels to get as much moisture out,) about 1/2 cup of steamed (partially done…) brussel sprout leaves, some cherry tomatoes, few thin slices of onion and the first asparagus (partially steamed) of the year and it was so delicious… added some different cheeses and a few herbs and she was ready before we knew it.

I was starved and kept peeking into the oven…

It was finally done!

Look at it, all the blends tasted so delicious!

I want spring to come so bad… I have been going through some of my photos that I have taken in my gardens for several seasons.  I am going to share a few of the flower photographs over the next weeks… the real signatures of the summer months with you.  Maybe just maybe it will quicken the approach of the season?

A Zen Saying:  Sit quietly, doing nothing, spring comes, and the grass grows by itself.  T reminded me as I was talking about spring…  he was thinking out loud about the grass would need mowing!

I will start with my favorite the hydrangea… they seem so complex to me.  As a child I thought of them as big snowballs… now they have so many varieties… my favorite is called the ‘Sea Breeze.’  Is she not lovely?  And who could not resist the daisy? I hope you enjoy my garden pictures and I have included our little raccoon that makes regular visits I call him  ‘Robber’….

Digital pictures I did of my bleeding hearts… how many like digital art… I am still deciding!

Caramel Budino with Salted Caramel Sauce

Dessert for Valentine’s Dinner this year was Caramel Budino with Salted Caramel Sauce.  The word ‘budino’ is Italian for pudding and I can say personally that Italian puddings are really mouth-watering, at least this budino was.   There were several different steps to this dessert but it was well worth the effort.

When I first saw the recipe at Bon Appétit I was bowled over and I knew that T would love it. The budino is made with caramel syrup you make and add to the milk and egg mixture, then the salted caramel sauce-topping is all you could want it to be and add fresh whipped cream to the mix and it was beyond expectancy.

I needed chocolate wafers and T was making the run… he wanted to know what I needed plain chocolate wafers for and I wanted to surprise him and told him to please just get them.  He came home with Nabisco Chocolate Teddy Grahams… but to my surprise they were perfect.  A deep chocolate flavor and made the perfect cookie crust.  I even decided to be whimsical and instead of garnishing with the cookie crust crumbs on top I put a Teddy Graham on top of each, it was Valentine’s Day and added to the love I feel for T and all that he does for me.  He loved the Budino and he loved the fact that I put a teddy on each.  It was his decision to buy the teddies and now he is a gourmet cook (didn’t you know!)  He made mention that he should or could be making more decisions on the finishing touches on our plated food!  I will let him!  Should have… Could have… Would have… We will see!

I will add the recipe here, there seems to be a problem with the connection (part of the time) at Bon Appétit:

Ingredients

Cookie Crust

  • 1 cup finely ground chocolate cookie crumbs  (such as Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers; about 20 cookies)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter,  melted
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Budinot

  • 3 cups whole milk,  divided
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 3/4 cup (packed) dark brown  sugar
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted  butter
  • 2 teaspoons dark rum
  • 1 teaspoon kosher  salt

Salted Caramel Sauce

  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light corn  syrup
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) chilled unsalted  butter, cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Lightly sweetened whipped  cream

Preparation

Cookie Crust

  • Mix cookie crumbs, butter, and salt in a medium bowl. Place 2  tablespoons in a small bowl; cover and chill for garnish. Press 2 tablespoons  cookie mixture onto the bottom of each of eight 8-ounce mason jars or  ramekins.

Budino

  • Whisk 1/2 cup milk and cornstarch in a small bowl; set aside.  Heat remaining 2 1/2 cups milk in a small saucepan just to a simmer; set aside.  To make caramel, stir sugar and 3/4 cup water in a heavy saucepan over medium  heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat; cook without stirring until an  instant-read thermometer registers 210°–220°
  • Line a sieve with a double layer of cheesecloth and set over a  large pitcher. Whisk egg yolks in a large bowl. Gradually whisk in hot milk,  then cornstarch mixture. Slowly whisk in caramel. Return mixture to saucepan.  Whisk constantly over medium heat until mixture thickens and a thermometer  registers 175°, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat; whisk in butter, rum, and  salt. Pour through prepared sieve.
  • Pour 1/2 cup budino over crust in each jar. Cover; chill until  set, 4–5 hours. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep  chilled.

Salted Caramel Sauce

  • Place cream in a small pitcher. Scrape in seeds from vanilla  bean; add bean. Set aside.
  • Stir sugar, corn syrup, and 2 tablespoons water in a heavy  saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to medium-high;  boil, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides with a wet pastry brush,  until deep amber color forms, 5–6 minutes. Remove from heat; gradually add  vanilla cream (mixture will bubble vigorously). Whisk over medium heat until  smooth and thick, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat; whisk in butter and salt.  Strain into a heatproof bowl. Let cool slightly.
  • Spoon 2 tablespoons caramel sauce over each budino. Top with  whipped cream. Sprinkle some of reserved cookie crumbs over  each.
http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/2011/09/caramel-budino-with-salted-caramel-sauce#ixzz1nFOCZneZ

The dinner was a week late with all that has gone on, but each Valentine’s Day I try to make a special dinner for T.   Between the stuffed pork chops and apple, peach salad it was a wonderful meal.   I do not like getting flowers, chocolates or gifts of any kind for Valentine’s Day.  A card that puts a smile on my face is all I need and that is not mandatory!  Just love me for me, which is all I can ask….

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