Archive for the ‘Food Inspirations’ Category

Palisade, Colorado Peaches by Cathy Ulrich

It’s peach season here in Colorado. I hail from the Peach State, Georgia. I know, it’s sacrilege but Colorado peaches are, in my opinion, the best on Planet Earth. I’m not kidding. It don’t know what it is about growing peaches here, but I’ve never had a bad one.

Most of our peaches are grown in Palisade, Colorado in a fertile river valley just to the west of the Rocky Mountains . We Coloradans are so passionate about our peaches that we pretty much consume most of them here. That’s why anyone who lives outside the state has probably never experienced their special flavor. Imagine sweet, tart, buttery flesh of a perfect texture with a thin skin – that’s our peach.

What I didn’t know was that peaches grown right here on the eastern side of the Rockies are just as good. Last weekend our neighbor, Doug, came knocking at our door. He held a flat box of little jewels that he had grown himself – gorgeous white peaches. We’ve been eating them all week. I sliced up some of the last ones to go on a Dutch-Baby pancake this morning. You can find the recipe for the pancake here.

Doug’s gift was a harbinger of things to come. Every year, Peter and I order a box of peaches from Palisade through a local Rotary club. The club brings in several Semis loaded with peachy goodness and they use the proceeds to buy a dictionary for every third-grade child in the Fort Collins school district.

What am I going to do with all of these peaches? Well, I see a peach cobbler in Peter’s future (yes, I am psychic). As well as a few simple desserts of broiled peaches. I split them, remove the pits, sprinkle them with brown sugar and cinnamon and broil them until the brown sugar starts to bubble. Then top with lightly sweetened whipped cream. I’ll probably also make some peach salsa with mint and peppers from the garden to go on grilled chicken or steak and I’ll freeze the rest for our enjoyment later

Here’s a preserving tip: Did you know that you can freeze peaches whole? I put them, skin and all, into Ziplock Gallon freezer bags. When I’m ready to use them, I just rinse under cold water and the skin slides off. Split it, remove the pit and slice. They’re the closest thing to fresh peaches I’ve ever found with the added benefit of no additional sugar or the need for pectin to keep them from turning brown.

So if you’re not fortunate enough to live in Colorado, I’d suggest you plan a trip out here in August to try our delectable peaches – maybe even a road trip. Because I suspect you’ll want to take at least one large box back home.

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Smoked salmon/ potato cake/ onion/ creme fraiche/ fried capers at Next Door Food and Drink

This lovely restaurant is rapidly becoming my favorite spot for dinner. Specializing in Spanish tapas and small plates, Next Door offers a creative menu as well as an interesting bar selection.

Last night, Peter and I shared several small plates. We love dining at a relaxed pace and we learned how much we liked this kind of eating when we went to Barcelona a few years ago. Tapas, I think were originally offered as little snacks in bars and the classic is the “Tortilla,” which in Spain is more like a frittata or omelette than the corn or wheat flatbread to which we have become accustomed in North America. While Next Door does not offer a “Tortilla Espanola,” they do offer several items that take me right back to Barcelona and the eating style I love so well.

While Next Door’s menu offerings are not exactly “classic” in the Barcelona style, they capture the feeling of the tapas experience. Two of the more common Spanish tapas dishes show up here and I was delighted to be able to enjoy them in Loveland, Colorado! Padron peppers (called the Spanish Roulette on Next Door’s menu) are small, green, slightly spicy peppers, usually grilled or sautéed in olive oil and served with a little salt. Next Door does this, but kicks it up by adding a little dish of sesame seeds and salt as well as a piquillo (pimento) aioli. And, this dish is only $4! Peter and I love these so much that we get two orders so we don’t have to fight over them.

Patatas Bravas – which can be found on any tapas menu in Spain – sounds a little scary (Brave Potatoes?) but is, in fact a delicious and simple dish that I simply cannot pass up, when I can get it. Crispy roasted or fried potatoes with a smoky paprika and piquillo sauce, these babies disappear quickly. And, again, Next Door raises the bar with two more sauces, a Sri Ra Cha mayonnaise and a piquillo caper sauce in addition to the Bravas sauce.

For our next round, we enjoyed fried calamari with a savory tomato sauce and a lemon-basil remoulade along with a beautiful plate of burrata cheese with baby arugula greens and crispy roasted tomatoes. Finally, we decided to do a “raw surf and turf” round by finishing our savory options with smoked salmon rolls on potato cakes with onions and fried capers and a beef carpaccio plate. In keeping with their creative flair, Next Door serves thin slivers of raw beef over the most delicate schmeer of mustard mayo, then topped with manchego cheese, fava beans (just a few) and a lovely julienne of radishes.

Dessert? Yes, we had to…Apple Empanadas. Fortunately they were small, encrusted in cinnamon sugar with a tiny dollop of whipped mascarpone and a small quenelle of cinnamon ice cream. And, no we weren’t done even then. We had to try their house made blood orange cello (like Limoncello, only a lot better).

In closing, I’d like to give you a few tips to optimize your experience. The way to eat small plates, or tapas, is to order them in ones or twos, instead of all at once. You don’t want these delectable treats to get cold or to feel overwhelmed. Peter and I keep a menu on the table and choose our next round as we finish our current one. This way we can decide to order more or quit when we’re full. The only challenge here is that the menu is so interesting, it really is hard to pick. Fortunately, with small plate dining, we take advantage of the chance to sample their many offerings and leave comfortably stuffed!

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Peter and I went to a party yesterday afternoon. It’s a long-time group of friends that we see several times a year and all of them are great cooks. So this time, the host house grilled wonderful grass-fed, free range beef burgers and everyone attending brought a side dish or appetizer. I spent most of the weekend gardening, so I decided to plan something easy for my contribution.

One of my favorite “pot luck” dishes is a Chile Relleno Casserole. I don’t usually bring casseroles to these gatherings, but I decided to make it as usual and then cut it into small portions as an appetizer. It’s always delicious and lasts about 10 minutes.

Chile Relleno Casserole

2 – 7 oz cans whole roasted and peeled mild green chiles, drained

1 lb. Shredded cheese – either Cheddar, Monterrey Jack or both (I like to mix them

3 eggs

1 cup milk

1/4 All-purpose flour

Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. And butter a 10-inch square baking dish

In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, then add milk, flour, salt and pepper and whisk.

Split whole chiles down one side so they can lie flat and place one layer in bottom of dish.

Next, layer 1/2 cup of shredded cheese over chiles.

Continue layering until you have three layers ending with cheese.

Pour batter over casserole and add last 1/2 cup of cheese.

Bake for 50 minutes.

You can cut into larger pieces for 6 generous entree portions or small 2-3 bite portions, as I did here,for appetizers.

Some people like to top with sliced scallions or serve it with fresh salsa on the side.

As usual, I got lots of requests for the recipe. The mild aromatic chiles in combination with cheese and custard, makes this a hit every time. And I must admit that I’m almost embarrassed to give out the recipe because it’s so easy!

Enjoy and let me know what you think!



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With the arrival of quarts of fresh berries from my little strawberry patch, I had to decide what to do with the precious jewels. There’s something so special about harvesting my own berries and honoring them…so I made a Dutch Baby pancake.

The backstory of this little package of scrumptiousness comes from my childhood and my mother. When my sister, Becky and I were kids, Becky wouldn’t eat eggs. Mom found this recipe in the paper and thought it would be a great way to get eggs and some protein in my little sister, so she would make this pancake for us most mornings before school. A few years ago, I came across the same recipe online realized that it must have been the same one my mother used.

So here it is along with my own commentary:

Dutch Baby Pancake

Preheat oven to 425 degrees and place a 12 inch seasoned cast iron skillet in the oven when you turn it on


2 large eggs

1/2 cup milk

1/3 cup all purpose flour (I like to use King Arthur”s White Whole Wheat flour – it adds a little nuttiness to the flavor)

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, then whisk in the milk. Add flour and whisk, then cinnamon and vanilla. There may be some small lumps of flour, don’t worry about these.

When the oven reaches temperature, remove the skillet, add butter and olive oil. Swirl the pan to melt and disperse the butter.

When butter is melted, pour in the batter and return to the oven.

Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and enjoy.

I often top with my favorite marmalade or preserves but I decided to use my precious strawberries and a little sweetened sour cream.

This recipe makes a generous two servings. You can double the recipe and use a 16 inch skillet for a family of four. I usually serve this recipe for breakfast, but I’ve often thought it would make an elegant dessert as well – maybe baked in small individual pans.

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