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Coconut Curry Cauliflower

January 10, 2014

DSC_0686Indian cuisine is new to my repertoire. Indian cooking intimidated me primarily due to the vast array of exotic spices. But fortunately, I have a neighbor who happily opens up his kitchen to teach me some of his authentic dishes. Raj eats a diet filled with veggies and plant-based protein. His pantry, void of any prepackaged food, is quite impressive, loaded with spices, spice blends, grains and lentils. Some of his spice blends are hard to duplicate so I’m going to use spices that are very likely in your pantry. Healthy veggies like this cauliflower dish simmered in coconut milk are packed with loads of nutrients and vitamins. After mastering this dish….I am going back to class at Raj’s soon and will share my next lesson.

Coconut Curry Cauliflower    (Adapted from Raj)

2 teaspoons sesame oil

6-8 curry leaves, or 1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder

2 tablespoons urad lentils

2 teaspoons black mustard seeds

2 teaspoons whole coriander seeds, slightly crushed

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

4 cups cauliflower florets, frozen (2 bags)

2 cups lite coconut milk

2 tablespoons turmeric powder

2 tablespoon coconut flakes

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

In a large oven proof skillet, saute all spices up to the cauliflower for 2-3 minutes in oil. Add cauliflower. Combine remaining ingredients. Saute on the stove top for about 30-40 minutes. Serve immediately. Garnish with chopped cilantro if desired.









































Slow-Cooked Kale Omelettes

December 31, 2013



Sprouted Kitchen is one of my favorite blogs. Sara and Hugh won Saveur’s best blog for original recipes 2012. Their recipes are creative and healthy and I’m sure you will agree with me that Hugh’s photography is breathtaking. I knew the site would be a a great source for a nutritious New Year’s breakfast. The bitterness of the kale balances the sweetness of the onions and the goat cheese provides a creamy finish. I love the idea of a VERY thin omelette to wrap up all the ingredients. My first attempt was without a non-stick pan and the result was less than perfect. No worries…it tasted great and I was happy to make this recipe again!!!

SLOW-COOKED KALE OMELETTES       (Adapted from Bon Appetit via Sprouted Kitchen)

Makes 4

1 heaping pound kale, ribs remove

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 sprigs rosemary

1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or more to taste

1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes

1 cup sliced yellow onion

2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced

2 Tbsp. ghee (clarified butter) or more olive oil

Fresh ground pepper

8 extra-large eggs

1/4 cup whole milk

6 ounces soft goat cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Blanch the kale for 1 1/2 minutes, drain, let it cool, and squeeze out excess water. Chop up and set aside.

In a large skillet, warm the ghee or olive oil over medium heat. Add the rosemary sprigs cook for one minute. Reduce the heat to low, add the onion and salt, cook for two minutes, and then add in the garlic. Cook for about 6 minutes until the onions are soft and starting to brown.

Turn the heat to medium-low, add the kale and ghee(claified butter) or oil, stir to coat. Cook for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally until the kale is almost black and charred at the edges. Remove the rosemary sprigs. Sprinkle some fresh ground pepper, taste for salt, and set aside.

Heat a 10” pan over medium-low heat add a small pat of butter or ghee. For each omelette, beat 2 large eggs with a Tbsp. of milk. Add the eggs to the pan and let them cook for about a minute and a half. Use a spatula to lift up one corner of the eggs, tilt the pan, and let the liquid egg on top, run underneath. When the omelette is mostly set, put a few spoonfuls of the kale down the center and a generous sprinkle of goat cheese on top. Gently fold the omelette into thirds and slide it onto a plate. Repeat with remaining omelettes.

Serve with a handful of fresh greens on top and some crusty toast.








Wingless Buffalo Chicken Pizza

December 26, 2013


Looking for a winning recipe for playoff season? How about wings without the mess!!  I like the idea of combining all those yummy flavors onto a flatbread…spicy sauce, chicken, onions all cooled by melted blue cheese. My neighbor, Courtney, highlights this dish on her blog  every few months under “our pizza”. Cute. We don’t have a signature dish….hard to narrow one down. However, blue cheese anything is always way up there. If you like wings and you like pizza this may become your new favorite game time meal.

Wing Pizza             (adapted from A Life From Scratch)

Pizza Dough  ( Trader Joe’s)
Olive Oil
3-4 chicken cutlets, depending on size
Salt and Pepper
2 tablespoons salted butter
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon hot sauce  (more or less)
1 cup tomato sauce
1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup blue cheese
Scallions, thinly sliced (1 or 2)
Preheat grill or saute pan to medium high heat.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Rub the chicken with a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper. Grill or saute chicken until done, about 3 minutes a side. Make the sauce. Heat a medium saute pan over medium heat. Melt butter and stir in the Worcestershire and hot sauce. Stir in tomato sauce. Turn off heat. Mix together sliced grilled chicken with the sauce. Roll out pizza dough. Spread a bit of corn meal onto baking sheet and place dough on top. Spread sauce on dough, top with both types of cheese and chopped scallions. Bake for approximately 14 minutes. Watch carefully the last few minutes….












Gruyere and Pepper Cookies

December 14, 2013

DSC_0606 This savory cookie is just what your red wine (or champagne) ordered. The Gruyère cheese has a nutty rich flavor and the pepper gives this appetizer a nice kick. Make the dough now (you can freeze up to 2 months) and have these ready to go for the holidays. 

Gruyere and Black Pepper Cookies  (Adapted from Sassy Radish)

2 cups all-purpose flour
8 ounces unsalted butter, softened
8 ounces (2 cups) Gruyere, freshly grated
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper and salt for finishing

Preheat oven to 350. In the large bowl of a stand mixer (set at low-speed), beat the flour, butter, Gruyère, and black pepper until stiff dough forms. For a couple of minutes, the dough will look dry and will not come together; keep mixing and you will see it form into a ball. Divide the dough into 3 pieces, and roll each piece into a 9-inch log, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Chill the dough, in the refrigerator, for about 1 hour – it will make the slicing easier. OR you can freeze the dough for up to 2 months. Let the dough sit 15 minutes at room temperature before slicing.

Slice the logs into 1/3″ thick cookies and arrange the slices on 2 large baking sheets. Sprinkle a bit of kosher salt on each cracker. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until the turn golden brown around edges, rotate the pans halfway through baking for even browning. Let the cookies cool for 10 minutes, before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely. Makes approximately 60 cookies.

Store the cooking in an airtight container for up to 5 days.









Chicken Liver Pate with Green Peppercorns

December 7, 2013



Have you ever had a food flashback??!! Well, here’s mine. I haven’t thought of this story for years until I made liver pate over the holiday. Years ago (o.k …many) I planned a trip to visit my good friend Mark at the Culinary Institute of America. Flying to NYC with a connecting flight to Poughkeepsie (in January!) had a few hiccups. The puddle jumper to the CIA was cancelled leaving me stranded at JFK in a quandary. When the lovely couple in line behind me, also going to the CIA, heard my series of panicked questions they quickly stepped up and asked me to join them in the two-hour drive to our mutual destination.  A jolly man with considerable girth, silver hair, a sweeping white handlebar mustache and a foreign accent and his lovely wife with a quiet demeanour… proved (to say the least) an interesting couple. The scenic drive to upstate NY was filled with stories of living in Lincoln Park and our mutual love of food and architecture. Our arrival to the CIA took me by surprise. Pulling up to the school entrance, the red carpeted walkway was lined with chefs all decked out in their whites. The door opened to cheers and applause!! You can only imagine my shock and Mark’s when he saw me get out of that limo!! It was now crystal clear who I was sharing my ride with… Chef Louie Szathmary and his wife Sada who owned and operated The Bakery on Lincoln Avenue in Chicago. The Bakery brought continental flair to the Chicago restaurant scene and Chef Louie was truly one of the first celebrity chefs. From that trip forward when Mark was able to get home, he and I became regulars at the Bakery. Ever hospitable, Chef Louie invited us into his kitchen and home located directly behind his restaurant. This experience was the beginning of my love of the culinary arts. Chef Louie always took excellent care of us….and every dinner started with liver pate.

Chicken Liver Pate    (Adapted from Emeril Lagasse)

1 pound fresh chicken livers, cleaned
1 cup milk
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 cup chopped yellow onions
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons green peppercorns, drained
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup Cognac or brandy
Chopped parsley leaves, for garnish
French bread croutons or toast, accompaniment
French cornichons, optional accompaniment

In a bowl, soak the livers in the milk for 2 hours. Drain well. (I omitted this step)

In a large saute pan or skillet, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the chicken livers, 1 tablespoon of the peppercorns, the bay leaves, thyme, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring, until the livers are browned on the outside and still slightly pink on the inside, about 5 minutes. Add the Cognac and cook until most of the liquid is evaporated and the livers are cooked through but still tender.

Remove from the heat and let cool slightly. Discard the bay leaves.

In a food processor, puree the liver mixture. Add the remaining butter in pieces and pulse to blend. Fold in the remaining 1 tablespoon peppercorns and adjust the seasoning, to taste.

Pack the pate into 6 individual ramekins or small molds, about 4 ounces each. Cover with plastic and refrigerate until firm, at least 6 hours.

To serve, place the ramekins on individual plates. Garnish the tops with parsley and surround with croutons. Serve with cornichons on the side. I added a few peppercorns on the top.

***In the photo above one of the pates I covered with a shallot jam. The recipe I used did not allow the jam to set up, HOWEVER,  the combination of oil, shallots, brown sugar, balsamic vinegar and salt with the chicken liver works well. I am now on a mission to perfect that topping.





Sweet and Spicy Brussels Sprouts

November 30, 2013


Take advantage of the seasonal sprouts and dress them up in a non-traditional fashion. This recipe calls for glazing them with a spicy-sweet combination of soy, rice vinegar, sugar and Siracha. To make this a complete meal I paired the sprouts with Ahi Tuna. The glaze worked beautifully as a marinade and then I lightly seared the tuna. A delicious combo!!!

Brussels Sprouts    (Adapted from JeanMarie Brownson) 

Serves 6

2 lbs small Brussels sprouts (about 60)

1/4 cup canola or safflower oil

1/2 cup soy sauce (or light)

1/4 cup rice vinegar

1/4 cup sugar

1 or 2 tablespoons of Siracha (or 1 to 2 teaspoons of crushed red pepper flakes)

1 teaspoon dark sesame oil

2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped

2 tablespoons green onions, chopped

2 tablespoons sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Trim ends of the sprouts and cut them in half. Put the halves onto a non-stick baking sheet. (You may need 2 pans) Drizzle with oil, toss well to coat evenly. Roast the Brussels sprouts, stirring them every 10 minutes. Cook until the exteriors are golden about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, put soy sauce, vinegar and sugar into a small saucepan. Heat to a boil under medium heat. Boil gently until the mixture is reduced and slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add Siracha or pepper flakes. Stir in sesame oil. Toss the hot sprouts with enough sauce to coat. Arrange on serving platter and sprinkle with cilantro, green onions and sesame seeds.









Pumpkin Bread Pudding With Spicy Caramel Sauce And Vanilla Bean Creme Anglaise

November 24, 2013


DSC_0531I’ve always been a fan of bread pudding…. all varieties! But this Bobby Flay version using pumpkin bread takes the gooey decadent dessert to the next level. Fancy, yes. A bit steppy, yes. Can you do it?? YES! Most of the prep work comes days in advance. I made the bread 3 days before I assembled the pudding. The caramel sauce was made 2 days before and the anglaise sauce I made the day of serving. A quick assembly and you have yourself a very special ending to any meal. I will be replacing my traditional Thanksgiving dessert with this pumpkin bread pudding.

Pumpkin Bread Dessert  (Adapted from Bobby Flay)
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 cup pure canned pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons bourbon
Pumpkin Bread, toasted and cubed, recipe follows
Vanilla Bean Creme Anglaise, recipe follows
Spicy Caramel Apple Sauce, recipe follows
Freshly whipped cream
Pumpkin seeds, lightly toasted and sprinkled with sugar
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Combine the cream, milk, vanilla bean and seeds in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Whisk together the yolks, sugar, maple syrup, and pumpkin puree in a large bowl. Slowly whisk in the hot cream mixture until combined, remove the vanilla pod, and whisk in the bourbon. Strain the custard into a clean bowl.

Scatter the pumpkin bread cubes in a buttered 9 by 13-inch baking glass baking dish. Pour the custard over the bread, pressing down on the bread to totally submerge it in the custard. Let sit for 15 minutes to allow the bread to soak up some of the custard.

Place the pan in a larger roasting pan and pour hot tap water into the roasting pan until it comes half way up the sides of the glass dish. Bake until the sides are slightly puffed and the center jiggles slightly, about 1 hour.

Remove from the oven and water bath and cool on a baking rack for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Spoon some of the Vanilla Bean Creme Anglaise into a shallow bowl, top with some of the bread pudding and drizzle with the Spicy Caramel Apple Sauce. Top with freshly whipped cream and toasted (dusted with sugar) pumpkin seeds. Serve warm.

Pumpkin Bread
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
8 ounces (about 1 cup) canned unsweetened pumpkin puree
2 large eggs
2/3 cup water
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter or lightly spray the bottom and sides of a 9-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. Whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves in a small bowl.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the 4 tablespoons of softened butter, sugar, and oil at high-speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl a few times.

Add the pumpkin puree and mix until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix until just incorporated. At low-speed, slowly add the flour mixture and water and mix until just combined. Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 60 to 75 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a baking rack for 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and let cool completely.

Once the bread is cool, slice in half lengthwise, and then slice each half into 1/2-inch cubes. Spread the cubes on a large baking sheet and bake in a 325 degree oven until lightly toasted, turning once, about 20 minutes. Let cool.

Vanilla Bean Creme Anglaise
2 cups half-and-half
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
5 large egg yolks
1/3 cup pure cane sugar
Bring the half-and-half and vanilla bean and seeds to a simmer in a medium saucepan.

Whisk together the yolks and sugar in a medium bowl until at the pale ribbon stage. Slowly whisk in the hot half-and-half, return the mixture to the pot, and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture coats the back of the spoon. Strain into a bowl and set over an ice bath. Stir until chilled. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.  (I was planning on serving the bread pudding with vanilla ice cream so I skipped this sauce…..don’t skip.…delicious!)

Spicy Caramel Apple Sauce
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup apple juice
1 star anise
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
4 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon apple schnapps
Combine the cream, apple juice, star anise, ginger, cloves, cinnamon sticks, and nutmeg in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat and let steep for at least 20 minutes. Strain the mixture into a clean, small saucepan and place back over low heat while you make the caramel.

Combine the sugar, water and, vinegar in a medium saucepan over high heat and cook without stirring, until it’s a deep amber color, about 8 minutes. Slowly whisk in the warm cream mixture a little at a time, and continue whisking until smooth. Add the apple schnapps ( I didn’t have any schnapps on hand, so omitted it) and cook for 30 seconds longer. Transfer to a bowl and keep warm. The sauce can be made 2 days in advance and refrigerated. Reheat over low heat before serving.












Pumpkin Cheesecake Milkshake

November 16, 2013


Tis’ the season of pumpkin….a flavorful ingredient to create a fun milkshake!!! This sweet treat will be the addition we need to round out our Thanksgiving festivities. The roaring fire is the perfect setting for our after dinner games where we will be serving up our traditional Brandy Alexander and pumpkin milkshakes for the kids. Let the fun and yum begin!

Pumpkin Milkshake             Recipe from  FoodiewithFamily 

1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree

1 1/2 cups vanilla ice cream

1 cup milk, add 1/4 cup at a time for desired consistency

4 ounces Philadelphia Cream Cheese

1/4 cup light brown sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 small pinch ground cloves

Add all ingredients to a blender. Mix until well blended. Garnish with whipped cream and a dusting of fresh nutmeg or a crumble of a ginger cookie.








Roasted Butternut Squash Salad

November 10, 2013



What are you serving for Thanksgiving this year? I know you can’t divert too much from the same ‘ol same ‘ol. Traditions… (when it comes to food) are imperative and everyone’s favorite needs to show up. But what about the salad???? That poor… poor salad. We (a crew of 30 plus) made a group decision two years ago to ditch the salad for another side. A typical green salad just got “no love” and was the only dish standing (and taking up valuable real estate) at the end of the meal. That WAS the story until THIS salad showed up. The components of this dish are all about the seasonal flavors and mix well with what’s happening around it on the buffet table. I felt this was a great opportunity to add the holiday favorite… butternut squash! Pair that with the flavor of maple, the sweetness of cranberries and the crunch of walnuts and I believe you have a new and improved side dish that will be allowed to stay on that revered buffet table for years to come.

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad                          Adapted from Ina Garden

Serves 4

1 (1 1/2-pound) butternut squash, peeled and cubed        
Olive oil
1 tablespoon maple syrup
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons dried cranberries or more
3/4 cup apple cider or apple juice
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons shallots, minced
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
4 ounces baby arugula
1/2 cup walnuts halves, toasted

3/4 cup Parmesan, freshly grated  (goat cheese or gorgonzola cheese will also work)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the butternut squash on a sheet pan. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, maple syrup, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and toss. Roast the squash for 15 to 20 minutes, turning once, until tender. Add the cranberries to the pan for the last 5 minutes.

While the squash is roasting, combine the apple cider, vinegar, and shallots in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the cider is reduced to about 1/4 cup. Off the heat, whisk in the mustard, 1/2 cup olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.

Place the arugula in a large salad bowl and add the roasted squash mixture, walnuts, and Parmesan. Spoon over vinaigrette. Do not overdress. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve immediately.







Crispy Braised Chicken Thighs With Olives, Lemon And Fennel

November 3, 2013


A Sunday dinner ….an impromptu party….or Tuesday night!! This recipe fits the bill for all. Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc At Home Cookbook is a dream for home-cooks. Less intimidating than his French Laundry Cookbook, Ad Hoc teaches technique and is filled with approachable, beautiful recipes. Over the last few years I’ve warmed up to the chicken thigh!! Keller boasts thighs are the most flavorful cut of the bird. Not only are they flavorful but very affordable. This recipe calls for braising. The principle is simple. Sear, then cook in chicken stock on a bed of fennel, onion, garlic and strips of lemon zest. This technique produces a rich, concentrated stock layered in flavors. Cooking the fennel mellows its flavor to a subtle sweetness and the brine of the olives and the acid from the lemon balances this dish. It’s a “comfortable” one-pot dish with Mediterranean overtones. Serve with Keller’s smashed potatoes or lemon-parsley couscous. (See recipe below)

Crispy Braised Chicken Thighs With Olives, Lemon And Fennel  Adapted from “Ad Hoc at Home” by Thomas Keller

Serves 6

3 large fennel bulbs

12 chicken thighs, boneless skin on

Kosher salt

Canola oil

1 cup onion, coarsely chopped

1 tablespoon garlic, finely chopped

3/4 cup dry white wine,  Sauvignon Blanc

1 cup Ascolane or Ceregnola or other large green olives

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

4 fresh or 2 dried bay leaves

4 strips lemon zest, removed with a vegetable peeler

8 thyme sprigs

1 cup chicken broth

Garnish: about 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves or/and lemon slices

Cut the fennel stalks. Trim the bottom of the bulbs and peel back the layers until you reach the core. Discard any bruised layers, and cut the fennel into 2-by-1/2-inch pieces. You need about 3 cups of fennel for this recipe. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Season chicken with salt on both sides. Heat a thin layer of canola oil in a large ovenproof sauté or roasting pan that will hold all the thighs in one layer over medium-high heat. Add the thighs skin side down and lightly brown. Turn the thighs over and cook for about 1 minute to sear the meat. Transfer chicken to a baking sheet.

Reduce heat to medium-low, add the onion to the pan, and cook for 1 minute. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Cook, stirring often, until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the fennel, turn the heat up to medium and cook, stirring often, until the fennel is crisp-tender, about 10 minutes.

Pour in the wine and simmer for about 2 minutes to burn off the alcohol. Stir in the olives, red pepper flakes, bay leaves, lemon zest and thyme, then pour in the chicken broth. Increase the heat, bring the liquid to a simmer, and cook until the fennel is tender, about 1 minute.

 Taste the broth and season with salt as needed. Return the chicken to the pan, skin side up, in a single layer. When the liquid returns to a simmer, transfer to the oven and cook for about 20 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. (The meat will be firm and the juices will run clear, and a thermometer inserted should read 165 degrees.)

Turn on the broiler and put the pan under the broiler for a minute or two to crisp and brown the chicken skin. Remove from the oven and transfer to a serving platter. Garnish with parsley leaves AND/OR lemon slices and thyme sprigs.

Lots of yummy juice…. soak up with crusty bread, Keller’s mashed potatoes OR this couscous below. Enjoy.

Lemon-Parsley Israeli Couscous

1 cup Israeli couscous
1 clove of garlic, chopped finely
1/2 cup of onion, chopped finely.
Olive oil
1 1/2 cups of chicken broth
4 tablespoons of parsley, chopped
2 teaspoons of lemon zest

Heat the olive oil in a small sauce pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 2 minutes until it starts to become translucent. Add the garlic and cook 1-2 minutes more until the onion is completely translucent. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Add the Israeli couscous and stir to make sure each piece is coated with olive oil. Allow it to toast in the pan for 1 1/2 minutes. Add the chicken broth, stir and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for about 15 minutes or until all the broth has been absorbed. Remove from heat and add the chopped parsley and lemon zest. Season with more salt and pepper if needed.










Apple Brandy And Cider Cocktail: Rhine Hall Distillery

October 29, 2013



A handful of boutique distilleries are up and running in Chicago…. none serving Apple Brandy. Enter Rhine Hall, a hard-working father daughter team, passionate about the old school distilling process. Why apple brandy? It’s a great family story, well documented in the most recent Redeye and Chicagogrid. Randy and I are particularly happy the original apple crushing equipment has been upgraded from the 1970′s Schwinn exercise bike belted to a pulley, attached to a grinder operated in the family garage!! Randy (see below) was personally fueled (bribed!) by one of Charlie’s famous German beers. We are wishing Jenny and Charlie the best as the grand opening is only days away. As neighbors and friends we hope to also be frequent patrons. Jenny has given me the recipe for a brandy drink that will be featured in the Rhine Hall tasting room. It’s a perfect seasonal cocktail that will pair well with this chicken chili.

Double Time

1.5 oz Rhine Hall apple brandy

1 oz homemade Rhine Hall cider

3 splashes of Angostura bitters

A dash of cinnamon
Serve over ice in an old fashioned glass
Cinnamon and sugar rimmed glass: use a lemon to wet the rim and place glass in a dish of cinnamon mixture.
Apple Garnish
Using a mandolin, slice the apple. Preheat oven to 225 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Sprinkle apple slices with cinnamon sugar mixture. Bake for 1  hour, turn slices over and bake for an additional 1 hour. Turn oven OFF and let the apples cool in the oven completely. They will crisp up in the oven.

photo (1)






Quick Rick Bayless Shrimp Taco

October 24, 2013



Do you need a quick weeknight dinner idea? This is my new go-to!!! I feel like I’m cheating by using a pre-packaged sauce however, this is Rick Bayless…why mess with perfection? I’m lucky to be in the same city where I can sample the genius of Bayless’ moles and other sauces. Many of his moles take a multitude of ingredients and lots and lots of time to make. SAVE yourself. This key-lime cilantro taco skillet sauce and shrimp will have your meal on the table within 15 minutes.

Shrimp Tacos

1 onion, thinly sliced

1 poblano chili, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound medium shrimp, peeled deveined

1 pouch Frontera sauce

Garnish: avocado, sour cream, cilantro, lime zest

Heat 1 tablespoon oil and saute onion and poblano pepper til soft. About 4 minutes. Remove top plate. Add 1 tablespoon oil to skillet and add shrimp. Cook until opaque about 3-4 minutes. Combine onion mixture and sauce to pan. Heat til warm. Heat tortillas, add shrimp mixture. Garnish with avocado, sour cream, cilantro and lime zest.












Vegetable Lasagna

October 16, 2013

DSC_0659My veggie lasagna is one of Randy’s favorite recipes. He started asking (begging) for this a couple of weeks ago. Typically this lasagna shows up when the air is a bit crisper and football season is a few weeks further along. It’s about 60 degrees and we have a leisurely Sunday on our hands….perfect for a day of cooking. Just the kind of day I want the house to smell like the perfume of garlic, onions and tomato sauce. In this healthy version of lasagna you will not miss the meat. The mushrooms create a hearty, “meaty” texture while the peppers add a sweet note. I use light ricotta and half skim mozzarella. I’m not normally a fan of skimping on the cheese but you don’t need it….honest. To save time and an additional step try using Barilla NO bake lasagna noodles. 

Vegetable Lasagna

1 medium onion, chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 lb of baby bella mushroom, sliced (or any combo)

2 green peppers, chopped

1 red pepper, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

1 celery, diced

1  28 oz can Italian peeled tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)

10 oz lasagna NO BAKE  noodles (Barilla)

2 sprigs thyme

4 basil leaves, torn

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

salt/ pepper

15 oz ricotta/ part skim

4 cups mozzarella ( or 3/4 pound sliced mozzarella)

1/2 cup grated parmesan

In a large skillet add olive oil, onion. Cook til limp about 2-3 minutes. Add garlic, cook for 1 minute. Add mushrooms, peppers, carrots, and celery. Cook until vegetables are soft, about 20 minutes. Pour in the tomatoes with juices. You can crush the tomatoes with your hands or use a masher to crush them. Season with thyme, basil, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Adjust seasonings to taste. Bring sauce to a gentle boil then turn the heat down and simmer for 40 minutes or until the sauce thickens up a bit.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. To assemble lasagna start with spreading a couple of tablespoons of sauce to a casserole pan. Next lay a layer of noodles. Spread ricotta onto the noodles. Then layer with mozzarella. Finally, spoon about 1/3 of the sauce.  REPEAT. Noodles, ricotta, mozzarella and sauce. (YOU could repeat another layer but….) I then finish with noodles, sauce and lots of shaved parmesan. Serve with crusty bread and a crisp green salad. Enjoy…. we will be for days.











Warm Mushroom Salad

October 8, 2013


Iconic Fall Flavors: apples, squash, pears, pumpkin, and MUSHROOMS! The cool air combined with rain means we are in mushroom season. No, I’m not going foraging in my woods for these tasty morsels…..or am I?? Look what’s growing on our back forty!! Puffer mushrooms. The giant pufferball is a whitish, styrofoam-like globe. Yes, it’s edible (but not by me!!!) However, the kid’s middle school science teacher enjoyed a lovely saute of these mushrooms years ago after it was a “show and tell” item. And… I hear he’s still around! This recipe calls for baby bellas to create an earthy salad that can stand alone or on top of a grilled steak. This warm salad embodies fall with its earthy rich flavor, and has a hint of meaty undertones. Take advantage of this season’s forest fungi as they are high in fiber and vitamins… fat and cholesterol free.





Warm Mushroom Salad         (Adapted from Ina Garten)

Serves 4

1 pound cremini mushrooms

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 tablespoons good olive oil, divided

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 bunches of fresh arugula, washed and spun dry

8 slices good Italian prosciutto

2 tablespoons sherry wine vinegar

Chunk of Parmesan cheese

8 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and julienned

Fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

Clean the mushrooms by brushing the tops with a clean sponge. Don’t wash them! Remove and discard the stems and slice the caps 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. In a large saute pan, heat the butter and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil until bubbly. Add the mushrooms, salt, and pepper to the pan, and saute for 3 minutes over medium heat, tossing frequently. Reduce the heat to low and saute for another 2 to 3 minutes, until cooked through. Meanwhile, arrange the arugula on 4 lunch plates and cover each portion with 2 slices of prosciutto. When the mushrooms are cooked, add the sherry vinegar and the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the hot pan. Spoon the mushrooms and sauce on top of the prosciutto. With a vegetable peeler, make large shavings of Parmesan cheese and place on top of the hot mushrooms. Sprinkle with the sun-dried tomatoes, parsley leaves, salt, and pepper. Serve warm. Alternative: Serve over a grilled steak.



Caramel Roasted Pears With Cheese

October 4, 2013



I don’t need a sweet ending….so this works for me!!! Cheese course and dessert all in one. Warm pears and ginger snap crumbles drizzled with caramel sauce play well against the creamy, earthy cheese. A hint of thyme is added to the finishing sauce for a woodsy accent. This dessert is a perfect accompaniment to any seasonal entrée.

Caramel Roasted Pears With Cheese     (Adapted from the Josh Habiger and Erik Anderson/ WSJ)

Serves 4

1 small (10-12 ounce ) wheel soft cheese like triple cream brie, room temperature

4 ginger snap cookies, crumbled

2 tablespoons canola oil

2 ripe pears (Bartlett or other soft-fleshed variety), cored and halved

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 sprigs thyme

2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

Divide cheese and crumbled cookies evenly among four plates. Set a small pan over medium heat. Once hot, add oil. Season pears with salt and pepper. Place pears, skin side up, in pan. Once surfaces of pears are caramelized, about 5 minutes, flip pears and add butter and thyme to pan. Cook pears, constantly basting with butter, until warmed through and just fork tender, about 4 minutes. Place one pear half over cheese on each plate. Add honey and vinegar to pan with thyme and browned butter. Cook over medium heat until sauce begins to bubble aggressively, about 1 minute. Discard thyme and stir sauce until it darkens and thickens, about 2 minutes. Drizzle caramel sauce over pears. Serve.





Cumin Lime Roasted Carrots

September 27, 2013



Yep, I know another side! Hey, very often this course is the star…or can set the tone. These roasted carrots are a nice Fall accompaniment to your roasted chicken or a flavorful marinated flank steak. Use similar flavor profiles to marry the entrée and side together. Serve with roasted potatoes.

Cumin Lime Roasted Carrots

1 pound baby carrots

1 tablespoon olive oil

Juice and fresh grated zest of 1 lime

1 teaspoon honey

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground coriander

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

2 green onions, thinly sliced

Small handful fresh mint leaves, chopped

Cilantro, chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Trim the tops off the carrots. Toss them on a baking sheet with the olive oil, lime juice and zest, honey, and spices. Roast about 20 minutes, until the carrots are just tender. Transfer to a plate and top with the green onions and mint.




Grilled Pear, Brie And Prosciutto Sandwich

September 19, 2013


When the air turns crisp and the leaves start to change, I think comfort food. On a chilly Saturday afternoon, I whipped up a flavorful soup pairing it with a dressed up grilled cheese. Take the combination of sweet, creamy brie and pear, savory prosciutto, a bit of honey mustard, finished with a peppery note of arugula and you’ve got yourself a grilled cheese sandwich which screams… FALL!. Add soup …..oh, any will do, but try this easy, delicious butternut squash (recipe here) and welcome this magical season.

Grilled Brie, Pear And Prosciutto Sandwich

1 tablespoon butter, room temperature

2 sage leaves, minced

1 ripe pear, sliced (use about half)

2 slices prosciutto

4 slices of brie

Grainy mustard


2 pieces of country bread, sliced

Mix sage with butter. Spread half the butter on one side of bread. Take a few tablespoons of grainy mustard and add 1 teaspoon of honey (or to taste). On the non buttered side, spread a bit of honey mustard. Layer with cheese, pear, prosciutto, brie. Butter the other slice of bread. Spread with a bit of honey mustard. Top the sandwich. Heat skillet to med-high. . Put a skillet on the stove-top and turn the heat on medium. When it’s warm, put the sandwich in the skillet, heat til browned. Flip to the other side, let cook for a few minutes til browned.


























Grilled Sweet Onions With Blue Cheese And Balsamic Glaze

September 12, 2013


DSC_0119 One of our favorite sides this summer has been grilled sweet onions and blue cheese, drizzled with balsamic glaze.  The lightly charred sweet onions balance the salty richness of the cheese….making it the perfect combination. I used skewers to keep the rings together to make flipping easier. This is a delicious accompaniment for your favorite grilled meats. We love them along side a grilled strip steak!!

Grilled Sweet Onions With Blue Cheese And Balsamic Glaze

2 sweet onions, sliced approximately 1/2″ thick ( I used just the center slices to make the same size…about 4-6 slices)

4 tablespoons blue cheese

Balsamic glaze

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

4 skewers

Soak skewers for 15-30 minutes. Heat grill. Slide skewer through onion to hold the rings together. Brush with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place on grill and cook for approximately 10 minutes or until grill marks show. Turn onions and place blue cheese in center. Cook until cheese is melted. Place on platter and drizzle with glaze.
















Thai-Style Grilled Corn Soup/ Spring Rolls And Dipping Sauce

September 6, 2013


This meal came from cleaning out the vegetable drawer after a busy weekend. Leftover grilled corn, miscellaneous farmstand vegetables and fresh herbs from the garden were all on hand. A quick run to Whole Foods to pick up the wraps and coconut milk……and a fresh, healthy dinner done. This meal hit the spot after two dinners out last weekend. Now… back on the right track!!

Thai-Style Grilled Corn Soup / Spring Rolls and Dipping Sauce        (Soup: adapted from Fine Cooking)

Serves 4

2 medium ears corn, shucked and silks removed

Olive oil, for brushing

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 cups lower-salt chicken broth

1 14-oz. can light unsweetened coconut milk

1 tablespoon red curry paste (more to taste)

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon fish sauce

1 tablespoon finely grated lime zest

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Thinly sliced fresh hot red chile, for garnish

Prepare grill. Brush the corn with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill the corn 8 to 10 minutes. Cut the kernels off the cobs.

In a medium saucepan, whisk together the chicken broth, coconut milk, and curry paste over medium-high heat until simmering, about 2 minutes. Add the corn and simmer, stirring until hot, about 3 minutes.

Off the heat, stir in the lime juice, fish sauce, lime zest, and 1/4 tsp. salt. Serve garnished with the cilantro and chiles.

Dipping Sauce

3 tablespoons  rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup dark tamari soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 scallion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Spring Rolls

Makes 8-10

Spring roll wrappers

1/2 cup thin rice noodles, prepared as instructed

3 romaine lettuce leaves, sliced thin

5 green onions, sliced thin

1/4 cup fresh herbs (use cilantro, basil or mint)

1/2 cup carrots, grated or julienned

12 small shrimp (optional)

1 tbsp lime juice

1 tbsp soy sauce

1/2 tsp fresh ginger, grated

Toss together all ingredients together except wrappers in large bowl. Submerge spring roll wrapper in hot water until pliable, about 15 seconds. Place about 2 tablespoons of mix on wrapper and wrap your spring roll. Serve with dipping sauce.



Mango Peach Salsa

August 31, 2013


August is national peach month. This is evident by the abundance of peaches at your local farmers market. Peach salsa is a great way to utilize all the fresh produce available and is incredibly versatile. A perfect summer condiment! It’s a sweet and spicy companion for any grilled meat, fish, added to a salad or just serve with tortilla chips. I’m pairing the salsa with fish tacos…yum!!!

Mango Peach Salsa

Makes approximately 2 cups

1 mango, peeled and cubed

2 peaches, peeled and cubed

3 tablespoons red onion, chopped

1 jalapeno, seeded and diced

1 lime, juice and zest

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup cilantro

**for tacos; 1 pound halibut (salt/pepper, sautéed in canola oil 3-4 minutes per side)                                                  4 corn tortillas

Toss all the peaches, mango, onions, jalapeno, lime juice, oil and cilantro together in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper and refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.











Rustic Heirloom Tomato Tart

August 29, 2013



Tomatoes are abundant right now… make the most of these summertime jewels. This recipe is a twist on the Southern tradition of tomato pie. Layer your tart with heirloom tomatoes and dollop with an herbed cheese mayo and you have a savory and robust side to a summer meal or add a side salad for a light lunch. Another idea for all those tomatoes…… try this tart using caramelized onions and gruyere.

Rustic Heirloom Tomato Tart          (adapted from Fine Cooking)

1/4 cup semolina flour

1 recipe Buttermilk Biscuit Dough  (recipe below)

All-purpose flour, for rolling out the dough

3 to 4 medium ripe tomatoes (1-1/2 lb. total), preferably heirloom, cored and sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick

Kosher salt

2 oz. coarsely grated Gruyère (about 2/3 cup using the large holes of a box grater)

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup finely chopped mixed fresh herbs (parsley, basil, and chives)

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh oregano or marjoram

Freshly ground black pepper

Pre-heat oven to 425°F. Sprinkle a 12×17-inch sheet of parchment with 2 tablespoons of the semolina flour. On the semolina, pat the biscuit dough into a 5-inch round. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a 13-inch round, lightly dusting with all-purpose flour to keep the dough from sticking.

Transfer the dough on the parchment to a large rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons semolina flour over the dough, leaving a 1-1/2-inch border.

Arrange the tomatoes over the dough in two flat, slightly overlapping concentric circles, lightly salting each circle as you go.

Combine the cheese, mayonnaise, herbs, and pepper in a small bowl. Dollop in generous tablespoons over the tomatoes. Fold the dough border over the edges of the tomatoes, pleating the dough as necessary.

Bake until the crust is golden-brown and the tomatoes are tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack until warm, about 30 minutes, before cutting into wedges and serving. You can also serve it at room temperature.

Buttermilk Biscuit Dough

1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (more if needed)

2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon table salt

6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

3/4 cup cold, well-shaken buttermilk

In a large, wide bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Using your fingertips, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal with some pea-size lumps.

Using a spatula, stir in the buttermilk just until the flour mixture is moistened. Do not overmix; the dough should just come together, and it will be sticky.

Transfer the dough to a floured work surface and gently knead 6 to 8 times, dusting lightly with flour if needed to keep it from sticking.







Tomato, Stone Fruit And Mozzarella Salad

August 22, 2013



It was Monday morning and I needed to jump-start the week. I love our weekends and I love my weekend Wall Street Journal; my favorite section is Off Duty. I usually find interesting ideas from chefs around the country. Saturday highlighted Chicago chef, Stephanie Izard and her take on a refreshing seasonal salad. This is a perfect entree to enjoy ALL the produce that is in season right now. Izard combines two of Italy’s favorite salads, the panzanella and caprese. Creamy mozzarella pairs well with the acidity of the fruit. To quote Stephanie, “this is summer in a bowl.” To quote me, “it’s the perfect way to start my week.”

Tomato, Stone Fruit And Mozzarella Salad  (adapted from Stephanie Izard/ Wall Street Journal)

Serves: 4-6

1 cup roasted and salted pistachios, roughly chopped

Juice of 2 lemons

2 tablespoons honey

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 cups roughly torn bread

1¼ pounds heirloom tomatoes, cut into wedges

1 ripe nectarine, cut into wedges

2 ripe plums, cut into wedges

10 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced into ¼-inch rounds

8 basil leaves, roughly chopped

…and I added a handful of cherries, sliced in half, pitted



Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Make the dressing. In a medium bowl, whisk together pistachios, lemon, honey,4 tablespoons oil until well combined. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside. Make croutons. Toss bread with remaining oil and season with salt. Spread croutons in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake until golden about 12-15 minutes. In a bowl, toss tomatoes with stone fruit, season with salt. Divide mozzarella slices among plates and season with salt and pepper. Top with fruit mixture, drizzle with dressing and garnish with basil and top with croutons. Serve immediately.





Poppyseed Coleslaw

August 17, 2013



 Coleslaw…. most people can take it or leave it. Memories of soggy, over-mayonnaised salad may come to mind. Being the ultimate traditional side to a summer BBQ, coleslaw needs a shot in the arm. Give this recipe a try. …. it’s a crowd pleaser that I promise you will add to your summer repertoire. Take some time to chop these ingredients to create this incredibly flavorful and colorful slaw. Two cabbages, sweet apples, scallions, sunflower seeds, the bite of shallots and tangy lemon zest make this unlike any slaw of your past.   *** Coleslaw is not just for your summer menus, this salad can move into the Fall months to top your pulled pork sandwiches!

Poppyseed Coleslaw       (Adapted from Curtis Stone)

1/2 head Napa Cabbage, cored, cut in half and then cut crosswise into 1/8-inch-wide slices, about 3 cups

1/2 head Red Cabbage, cored, cut in half and then cut crosswise into 1/8-inch-wide slices, about 2 cups

1 large Carrot, cut into thin matchstick-size strips

1 apple, diced

8 Scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced

1/2 cup lightly packed fresh Cilantro

Sunflower seeds, toasted and salted

Using your hands, gently toss the Napa cabbage, red cabbage, carrots, scallions, and cilantro in a large bowl to combine. Toss the coleslaw with enough dressing to coat (reserve any remaining dressing for another use). Serve immediately.

Poppy Seed Dressing

1 1/2 cups Mayonnaise

1/4 cup finely chopped Shallots

2 tablespoons Cider Vinegar

1 tablespoon Poppy Seeds

Finely grated zest of 1 Lemon

2 teaspoons fresh Lemon Juice

2 teaspoons Kosher Salt

In a medium bowl, whisk all the ingredients to combine. Cover and refrigerate for at least 10 minutes to develop the flavors.





One Pot Pasta

August 11, 2013



The trending recipe of the summer. I have come across this recipe a number of times the last few months. It’s such a simple idea but being a bit of a skeptic… I had to try it. I love the idea of one pot dinners, easy to make and even easier to clean up. While these ingredients are not an uncommon combination, throwing them all  together in one pan is. The result… a VERY tasty noodle!! The starch that leaches off the pasta helps create a creamy and flavorful sauce. Dinner on the table in 20 pot…..where was this on those hectic days of  juggling practices, games and a meal???????

One-Pan Pasta     (adapted slightly from Martha Stewart Living)

12 ounces linguine

12 ounces cherry or grape tomatoes, halved or quartered if large

1 onion, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)

6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1/2- 3/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes

2 sprigs basil, plus torn leaves for garnish

2-3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving

kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

4 1/2 cups water

Lots of freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Combine pasta, tomatoes, onion, garlic, red-pepper flakes, basil, oil, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and water in a large straight-sided skillet. Bring to a boil over high heat. Boil mixture, stirring and turning pasta frequently with tongs, until pasta is al dente and water has nearly evaporated, about 9 minutes.

Season to taste with salt and pepper, divide among 4 bowls, and garnish with basil. Serve with oil and Parmesan.











Deconstructed Street Corn Salad

August 8, 2013


What memories are stirred when you sink your teeth into that first bite of summer’s corn on the cobb? I go back to my childhood where Mom would send one of us across the street to the farm stand with pocket change to pick up our daily sweet side to dinner…a food staple during the summer months. As much as I love eating from the cobb…for entertaining, this recipe works well as a side and is easier to serve for a crowd. The dish is a spin-off of ELOTE, a popular Mexican street food. (Grilled corn on the cob served with a variety of condiments, including mayonnaise, cotija cheese, lime and chili powder.) Crunchy, sweet, savory and spicy… soooo easy to prepare and goes great with just about any summer main course. While Randy has the grill filled with this chicken recipe, (minus the basil sauce I can prepare street corn in the kitchen.

Serves 6

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 jalapeno, finely chopped

6 cups corn kernels, shaved from about 12 ears


1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped

2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1/3 cup Parmesan, freshly grated


Heat oil in a large skillet set over low heat. Add jalapeno and saute for 2 minutes. Increase heat to medium, add corn and salt and cook for approximately 5 minutes. In a large bowl, toss corn, mint and vinegar. Add Parmesan and toss again. Serve cold or at room temperature. I like a squeeze of lime to finish.






Spicy Coconut Mussels with Lemon Grass

August 2, 2013



Thank you Pam for introducing me to this light and tasty mussel dish at Girlyfest 2013!! Just one of the highlights of the never-ending happy hour(s)! This was quite the leap for me to rediscover the very shell that hospitalized me in Italy years ago. Now… I’m back in the game! While mussels, the main ingredient, are lovely little saline bites, the brilliance of this recipe is the sauce. The bite of the Chile, sweetness of the coconut milk, bright lemon and fresh herbs leave you wanting a straw!!! Soak up this tasty broth with crusty bread, serve with a side salad and a crisp white wine. Enjoy this recipe and the health benefits of the mussels……a great low-fat, high protein food source filled with lots of nutrients like omega-3 and iron.

Spicy Coconut Mussels with Lemon Grass     (The New York Times) 

Serves 2

2 tablespoons coconut or safflower oil

1 shallot, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 stalk lemon grass, trimmed (outer layers removed) and finely chopped

1/2 to 1 small hot chile ( Thai bird, Serrano, Scotch bonnet or jalapeño), seeded and finely chopped

1 cup unsweetened coconut milk

2 pounds fresh mussels, rinsed well

Zest of 1/2 lemon

1 teaspoon lemon juice, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon Asian fish sauce, or to taste

1/2 cup whole cilantro leaves

1 baguette

Clean your mussels. I put them in a big bowl of very cold water for about 10 minutes. This encourages them to expel their sand. Scoop them out… one by one and scrub them under running water. Most cultivated mussels have the bissus (beard) removed but if one lingers, yank it toward the hinge or cut it with a knife. Discard any mussels with chipped shells or that are not completely shut.

Heat the oil in the bottom of a large pot until hot. Add the shallot, garlic, lemon grass and chile. Cook over medium heat until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the coconut milk and mussels. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook until the mussels have opened, 5 to 7 minutes (discard any mussels that remained closed). Remove from heat, and use a slotted spoon to transfer the mussels to a large bowl, leaving the liquid in the pot. Stir the lemon zest and juice, fish sauce and cilantro into the pot. Taste and add more fish sauce and/or lemon juice if needed (fish sauce provides the salt).

Serve with baguette to soak up the yummy juices. Add a fresh green salad to complete your meal.





Field Trip

August 1, 2013

Here’s just a “tasting” of what’s been cooking with me this past week or so. (Kitchen closed.) We traveled to Santa Barbara for a very special wedding, which happily included seeing our daughter. After much frivolity and fun, Randy and I headed north to wine country…. Paso Robles. This lovely and approachable Central Coast Region is midway between San Fransisco and Los Angeles making it a great side trip from either direction. We spent two days sipping wines….Rhone varietals which included granache, syrahs, zinfandel, cabernet, malbec, mourvedre, and several other grapes. With over 200 family owned vineyards dotted throughout the rolling hills, beautiful tasting rooms and collectively outstanding wines, this is a destination we hope to visit for years to come.  Though dining was not the main event, we enjoyed some memorable meals in Paso. Enjoy a few photos of our trip and now……..I’m back in the kitchen!!



















Rustic Cherry Tart

July 24, 2013


I needed a dessert and I needed one fast! We had family in for 5 days and I really didn’t plan a lot of sweet endings. While this may have been an oversight, a quick review of my pantry came up a winner. All ingredients were in the house, so without going to the market, I created this overstuffed treat…Rustic Cherry Tart! Using summer’s bounty of cherries, this tart saved me……tart’s always seem to save me! (Don’t overlook this fruit’s reputation as a nutrient packed superfood!)

Rustic Cherry Tart      (Adapted from Kitchen Simplicity)

Serves 8


1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

7 tablespoons cold butter, cut up

3-6 tablespoons ice cold water


1 pound (approx. 3 cups) sweet cherries, halved and pitted

1/3 cup sugar

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice


egg wash (1 egg white, 1 teaspoon water, whisked together)

1/2 tablespoon sugar

1/4 cup toasted almonds

For the Pastry Dough: Combine flour, sugar and salt. Using your fingers, quickly break up the butter, tossing it in the flour mixture, until the butter is roughly the size of peas.  Add water 1 tablespoon at a time, tossing together with a fork, until the dough sticks together to form a ball.  (Make sure it sticks together easily without being sticky to the touch.) Roll the dough out onto a lightly floured piece of parchment paper, into a 14 inch circle. Transfer the parchment and dough onto a baking sheet.

Mix together filling ingredients until evenly coated. Pour onto the center of the tart and spread out to within 2 inches of the edge. Fold up the edges to keep the filling inside.

Brush the pastry with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake at 375 degrees for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until filling is bubbly and crust is golden brown. Allow to cool completely before slicing and serving. Sprinkle with slivered almonds.




Momofuku Ginger Scallion Noodles

July 18, 2013


This is not just another noodle dish. It’s special…with only six ingredients! Quoting David Chang himself, “Ginger Scallion Sauce is one of the greatest sauces or condiments ever. Ever. It’s definitely a mother sauce at Momofuku, something that we use over and over and over again.” I’m sold and you will be too. Chang compliments the noodles with roasted cauliflower and pickled cucumbers. You can add pretty much anything (seared tofu, pork, vegetables) to this recipe. I chose shrimp for the protein and pea pods. Serve as an entrée or an appetizer.

Momofuku Ginger Scallion Noodles

2 1⁄2 cups thinly sliced scallions (greens and whites, 2 to 3 large bunches)
1⁄2 cup finely minced peeled fresh ginger
1⁄4 cup grape seed or other neutral oil
1 1⁄2 teaspoons usukuchi (light soy sauce)
3⁄4 teaspoon sherry vinegar
3⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste

6 0z. ramen noodles (or rice noodles)

Pea pods and Shrimp (*marinated) medium size, peeled and deveined

Mix together the scallions, ginger, oil, soy, vinegar, and salt in a bowl. Taste and check for salt, adding more if needed. Though it’s best after 15 or 20 minutes of sitting, ginger scallion sauce is good from the minute it’s stirred together up to a day or two in the fridge. Boil 6 ounces of ramen noodles, drain, toss with 6 tablespoons ginger scallion sauce; top the bowl shrimp and sliced peapods. Optional: Randy drizzled a little soy to finish and I drizzled a bit of chili oil. Great at room temp. or chilled.

*I marinated the shrimp in 1/3 cup soy sauce, 1/4 cup rice vinegar, 2 tablespoons sesame oil, 2 teaspoons minced garlic, 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger, 1 tablespoon green onion and pepper. Whisk together all ingredients. Makes 1 cup. Marinated for 1/2 hour or up to 2 hours. Saute approx. 3 minutes or pink in color. You already have most of these ingredients for the noodles!!






Sweet Potato Chips

July 12, 2013


File this under….needed to be documented. The kids have called for this simple, healthy snack recipe so often that I felt it just needs to be on the record (blog)!! A couple things differ with this method than others…..first, the length of the slice and second, the slow cooking process. Many recipes have high cook times and a quick bake. I find the slower method yields crunchier chips. Using a mandoline is ideal however, turn on the RED CAUTION light!!! Don’t make me tell that story……….wear gloves or use the safety handle!!!!!!  Enjoy with your summer burgers!

Sweet Potato Chips

Yields approx. 50 chips

2 large Sweet Potatoes

Kosher salt

Olive Oil

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Scrub the potatoes until clean. Using a mandoline or a knife, slice the potatoes lengthwise into thin slices, about 1/8-inch thick. In a large bowl, toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Place potato slices on parchment lined sheet trays and cook for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, flipping half way through. Remove from the oven once crisp and slightly golden brown. Season with additional salt if desired.

Alternative Cooking Method:  400 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Keep a close watch the last 5 minutes.