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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Rise and Shine - Cooking as the Sun Comes Up

There are great pleasures in getting up early and cooking for friends coming for lunch or dinner.
In the summer, getting up as the sun is rising avoids the day's heat. In the winter, I love early morning cooking because the kitchen heats the house with fragrance as baked good come out of the oven and bacon sizzles in the sauté pan.

Before everyone else is awake, the house is quiet. A freshly brewed cup of coffee and NPR's Morning Edition gets me going as I organize my ingredients and pull out the few pots and pans I'll need to make a fun meal.

For a summer brunch, with the weather forecast saying temperatures will top 90 degrees, rising early means the chance to do some light cooking and then spend the rest of the day enjoying the cool of a shaded deck.

Easy-to-make dishes give a big return.
Grilled vegetables, eaten as an appetizer or turned into a simple salad, are light, refreshing and take only a few minutes to prepare.

Or the simplest meal starts with hardboiled eggs cooked in the morning and chilled, then served with remoulade or 1000 island dressing and good cold cuts and cheese.
An omelet takes minutes to make.  Prepared ahead, the fillings can be any combination of sautéed vegetables, meat, fish or poultry with whatever cheese you enjoy.
Gnocchi prepared in the morning, come together with farmers market fresh vegetables or thin slices of prosciutto, dusted with parsley.
A simple baked custard flavored with fresh or cooked fruit, topped with caramelized nuts, served with fresh fruit from the farmers market is the perfect dessert.
Biscuits for strawberry shortcake, baked as the sun is coming up, appear in the afternoon, cut in half and topped with fresh strawberries and whipped cream.
In fall and winter, bacon sautéed chicken with vegetables is perfect to drive away the cold or pork belly roasted with Vietnamese style vegetables and cooked overnight in a 225 F degree oven. The tender, ginger flavored meat adds spice to a simple tossed pasta.
Cooking early in the morning frees the rest of the day to relax, go for a walk and read the Sunday newspaper. Then when it's time to eat, the food is ready and you are a guest at your own table.

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