Valentine’s Day

Proscuitto de Parma con Avocado

My best friend Mike – that fella from my Navy days who got me interested in cooking – sent me a thin volume quite a few years ago, after hearing hearing me wax eloquent about a romantic interest (the latter of which we’ll consign to the ash-heap of history). I think that Mike was trying to get me to laugh when I opened the mail more than he was attempting to inspire me to cook, but Romantic Italian Cooking: Authentic Recipes Just for Two has stayed with me through the years and served me well, whether I was feeling romantic or not. Continue reading

The Most Perfect Occasion

About Braising

Today’s offering could just as well be entitled Rediscovering the Joy of Cooking, for opening Molly Stevens’ amazing cookbook, All About Braising, started me out on a memorable culinary journey that was a big departure from the “same old thing” rut I had gotten myself into lately.

I’ve actually own this book for over a year. Her companion work, All About Roasting was reviewed on the local (Seattle) NPR station’s food program Food for Thought, and to say that the review was positive would be an understatement. More like ecstatic. At the time, I was looking for a suitable gift for my nephew’s wife Kim, who is a discriminating foodie, and the roasting book seemed like just the right thing. In reviewing All About Roasting, the program hosts referred to the earlier braising book with praise and reverence, and when it came time for me to order the book for Kim, I went ahead and ordered All About Braising as well. Continue reading

White Bean Soup, Oh Yeah!

A cold morning on Samish IslandWinter chill arrived – with a vengeance – in the Pacific Northwest over the Veterans’ Day weekend, sending us all scurrying for warmth and Comfort Food once again. I myself returned from a retreat on the beautiful small and rather remote Samish Island, lost among the confusing myriad inlets of the Salish Sea. The temperature had plunged into the teens and 20′s overnight (have you noticed that declining temperatures always “plunge?” – they never dive, or mosey, or jump, or amble...) and it was still quite frigid when I plunked my butt down on my Harley-Davidson to begin the ride home Sunday morning. The 50-plus mile ride included a wind-whipped trip across Admiralty Inlet on the ferry, and I had to stay close to my bike due to the rough sea, exposed to the weather. So you can understand why, once I had arrived home and stepped into my warm house, I was reluctant to head back out to the market for provisions. What a great time to raid the pantry for dried goods and the refrigerator for leftovers! Continue reading

Not of the Northwest… but Delicious!

Baked CatfishI was looking in the market for something simple and quick to make for dinner last night, and stumbled across something I don’t see very often in the Pacific Northwest: Catfish!

I was introduced to this delicacy by my Master Chief Storekeeper while serving in the Navy in 1984.  We were both assigned to the  Seabees at MCAS El Toro in Southern California, and part of our duties involved traveling around the country to inspect reserve Seabee battalions. One of these battalions was located on Barksdale Air Force Base in Shreveport Louisiana. I don’t remember the base, the battalion, or anything that we did. All I remember was accompanying the Master Chief for an all-you-can-eat catfish dinner, and how incredible it was. Master Chief had talked it up for weeks, and on that evening, he made a convert. Wow! Continue reading

Comfort Food: Chicken Pot Pie

Chicken Pot Pie

Jeanie’s Double-Recipe Chicken Pot Pie

I chose the name of this blog, Murph’s Diner, in a manner that was more calculated toward getting the blog up and running quickly, less so with respect to a precise description of its content. However, with an abundance of blogs out there in the æther (not to mention cookbooks and other web sites devoted to avant-garde and creative cookery), I did want to lower expectations a bit. This is not to say that I won’t offer some exotic choices from time to time, but with the debut of an exceptionally chilly and wet Autumn in the Pacific Northwest, Comfort Food — so perfectly evoked (particularly in America) by the word Diner — the name would seem to be a singularly appropriate choice. And there is no finer example of Comfort Food than Chicken Pot Pie.

There is nothing gourmet about this offering. It is the kind of thing one makes when the weather is cold and blustery, and one turns to the kind of ingredients that can be readily found in the pantry and the freezer without having to abandon the hearth and venture outside to the market in order to obtain fresh or unusual items. One must also suspend the general concern for one’s diet waistline and be willing to abandon oneself to the kind of food that is hot, easy to prepare, economical, feeds a crowd, is immensely satisfying, and which is easily re-heated, providing for outstanding leftover meals with minimal effort. Continue reading

End of the Blackberries…

I’m blessed to live in a place where I can walk through wooded trails and quaint neighborhoods to get to town (if I have the time).Picking Blackberries There are many sights along the way to delight the senses, but one of them is only present for a few short weeks in Autumn.

Blackberries. In a community where the term  “non-native plant” is almost a swear word, Blackberries (Rubus fruticosus) experience the full fury of a love-hate relationship with the locals. It’s understandable; the Blackberry is incredibly invasive (my own gardening experience being a case in point) and it doesn’t respond to Round-up® or most other common garden weed remedies. Then, when you go to pull it up you discover that it is ready to defend itself with sharp thorns that will gladly run through a leather work glove. I’ve been snagged in the arms, legs, and even around my head by Blackberry vines that grew out of the shrubs in my yard without my noticing them. Continue reading