Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

(I recommend viewing this in full screen!)

Brilliant!!! I can't do that, but I can make this festive "Limoncello Sparkle!" This lovely cocktail is perfect for New Year's Eve! I love it! See you next year!

Limoncello Sparkle

Makes 1 cocktail


1 ounce limoncello (An Italian lemon liqueur - love it!)
1/2 ounce Cointreau
Long lemon peel, for garnish


Combine the limoncello and Cointreau in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until well chilled (about 30 seconds) and strain into a champagne flute. Top with champagne. Garnish with the lemon peel. Voila!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to everyone who follows Dinner Night! 

Special thanks to the United States, Russia, Germany, Netherlands, and Canada (my biggest followers), as well as everyone else! Let me know if you're making these recipes in the comment section or just reading my blog! I'd love to hear from you! Happy Holidays!

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Lucky Peasants!

There is no way, I would let Christmas arrive without making Beef Bourguignon (aka., Beef Burgundy, Boeuf a la Bourguignonne). Beef Bourguignon is best made a day ahead, which makes it ideal for my holiday menuThis is a rustic peasant dish from the Bourgogne countryside of France, featuring the region's Charolais cattle and local red wine. This stew consists of beef, braised with carrots, onions, and red wine, then finished with bacon, pearl onions, and mushrooms... nothing could be more luxurious! Julia Child said it "is the best beef stew known to man." I agree! 

I have made almost every Beef Bourguignon recipe out there, (except, for one containing fish sauce... that's just wrong), and prefer Laura Calder's recipe, from French Taste: Elegant Everyday Eating. Traditional accompaniments include buttered noodles, rice, and mashed potatoes; but, I like it just as it is, with a sprinkle of parsley, a nice glass of red wine, and lots of crusty bread.

*The most important part of Beef Bourguignon is to take the time to properly sear the beef. This takes me about 30-40 minutes! Plan for it. This also makes a royal mess! Plan for that, too. Another note: Sometimes, depending on the wine used, it can acquire a slight bitter note, which can be corrected with 1/2 - 1 teaspoon of sugar.

Beef Bourguignon

Serves 8-10


For the stew
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 pounds boneless stewing beef, such as chuck or sirloin tip, cut into large chunks (pick a roast with a lot of marbling!)
4 garlic cloves, lightly crushed
1/4 cup flour
1 bottle red wine 
4 cups beef stock
1 bouquet garni (bay leaf, parsley stems, and thyme), click here for more information
2 carrots, peeled and halved
2 onions, peeled and halved
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the garnish
1 tablespoon olive oil, more if needed
6 to 8 slices bacon, cut into lardons
40 pearl onions, peeled
1 pound button mushrooms, halved or quartered if large
Chopped flat leaf parsley, just before serving


For the stew
Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Heat the oil in a large dutch oven or stockpot with a tight-fitting lid, over medium-high heat. Working in batches, brown the meat well on all sides, removing to a bowl as it's browned. It should look like this:

When the meat is done, reduce the heat to medium-low, add the garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add the flour, and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Stirring constantly, pour over the wine and the stock. Add the bouquet garni, carrots, and onions. Return the meat to the pot, cover, and bake in the oven until the meat is very tender, about 3 1/2 hours.

For the garnish
Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Fry the bacon until cooked but not crisp. Remove to a bowl. Add the onions, and saute until browned all over; add to the bacon. Finally, brown the mushrooms, and add to the bowl. Deglaze the pan with 1/2 cup water, reduce to a spoonful, then pour over the garnish. Set aside.

To finish
When the meat is done, remove it from the pot. Strain the stock, discarding the vegetables and bouquet garni. Pour the liquid back into the pot, and boil until thick enough to lightly coat a spoon. (Feel free to add a cube or two of demi-glace, to take it over the top!) Return the meat to the pan with the garnish. Cover, and simmer until the onions are tender and the flavors have blended, about 10 minutes. Adjust the seasonings. Refrigerate overnight. The next day, reheat gently, adjust seasonings, and serve with a sprinkle of parsley.

Recipe adapted from Laura Calder's French Taste: Elegant Everyday Eating.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Dreaming in Dalmation

A few Christmases back, I was fortunate enough to experience one of the most amazing meals I've ever had, at The Inn at Little Washington! The Inn was created by, self-taught chef, Patrick O'Connell and Reinhardt Lynch in 1978, and is located in the tiny town of Washington, Virginia, in a former gas station/country store. The ambiance is reminiscent of an extravagant English manor, with the kitchen staff donning their signature dalmatian patterned chef apparel, a tribute to Rose, their dalmatian and mascot of The Inn. The whimsical, creative, and unbelievably delicious food is truly a delight! If you ever have the opportunity, you should go!

For my holiday menu, "A Burst of Camembert on Baby Greens," from Patrick O'Connell's Refined American Cuisine, seemed the perfect fit. It is my favorite salad/cheese course, ever! I could eat this everyday!

A Burst of Camembert on Baby Greens

Serves 6, The Camembert Triangles can be made a day ahead and refrigerated!


1 small wheel (about 9 ounces) Camembert, chilled
2 sheets phyllo dough
1/4 pound (1 stick) butter, melted (clarified butter would be best)
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2 cups assorted baby greens, washed and dried
1/4 cup Sherry Vinaigrette, recipe below
Toasted pecans, for garnish


For the Camembert Triangles
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the wheel of Camembert into 6 triangles. On a cutting board, lay out one sheet of phyllo dough and brush it with some melted butter. Place a second sheet of phyllo on top of the first and brush it with butter, reserving about 4 tablespoons of the butter. Quickly, wrap up the phyllo, save for another use.

Using a sharp knife, cut the buttered phyllo sheets into 6 strips, about 2 1/2 inches wide. Place a triangle of Camembert on one end of each phyllo strip. Fold one corner of the dough over to cover the cheese and form a triangle shape. (This is a little tricky, just do the best you can.) Place the triangles, seam side down, on the baking sheet and refrigerate until ready to serve.

To Serve
In a small heavy-bottomed saucepan, reduce the balsamic vinegar by half and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat about 4 tablespoons of the remaining melted butter over medium-low heat. Add the pastry-wrapped cheese pieces and cook for 30 to 45 seconds on each side until just golden. Using tongs, remove the cheese triangles from the skillet and drain on paper towels.

Place the greens in a large bowl, lightly dress them with the Sherry Vinaigrette, and place a small mound of greens in the center of each plate. Place a warm cheese triangle on top of each pile of greens. Drizzle the reduced balsamic vinegar around the greens and garnish with the pecans. Serve immediately.

Sherry Vinaigrette

Makes 3 cups. (I know there is a lot of ingredients, but if you can swing it, it's worth making! It's delicious!)


2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 tablespoon copped shallot
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons dry sherry
2/3 cup sherry vinegar
1 cup salad oil (like canola oil)
2/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup walnut oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Whisk all the ingredients together in a large stainless steel bowl. Transfer to a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Store in the refrigerator and shake well before using.


Over the weekend, I had a holiday dinner party! Here's the menu:

I started the meal with "Potato Crepes with Smoked Salmon." I made the batter ahead of time, and cooked them up just before my guests arrived. I topped them with creme fraiche and capers, but caviar would be fabulous, too! These pretty hors d'oeuvres, and plenty of champagne, really started my party off right!

Potato Crepes with Creme Fraiche and Caviar

Makes about 20-30, depending on how thin you want the crepes.


12 oz. pureed cooked potatoes
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
3 large egg whites
1/4 cup heavy cream, or as needed
1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
Kosher salt and white pepper, to taste
Pinch of grated nutmeg
6 oz smoked salmon slices
1/2 cup creme fraiche
capers or caviar, to garnish


Combine the potatoes and flour in a mixer. Add the eggs one at a time, and then mix in the whites. Adjust the consistency with cream to that of a pancake batter; season with the salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir in the chopped dill.

Coat a nonstick pan or griddle lightly with oil. Pour the batter as for pancakes into silver-dollar-size portions. Cook until golden brown and turn and finish on the second side, about 2 minutes total cooking time.

Serve the crepes warm, each topped with a smoked salmon slice and garnished with a small dollop of creme fraiche and capers, or caviar.

Recipe from Hors d'Oeuvre at Home, by The Culinary Institute of America.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Magic in the Ice Box

Ice box cookies have been around since the 1920s, when ice boxes became widely available. These old fashion treats are always welcome in your freezer, to pull out when something special is desired, like during the holidays. All you do is slice off as many cookies as you'd like and bake them up. Nothing could be easier! One of my favorite ice box cookies are "Lacy Nut Cookies." These cookies spread like mad and remind me of delicate stained glass. They are very oily, so I recommend letting them completely cool before serving. While they are warm, you can roll them around the handle of a wooden spoon, you can cut them with cookie cutters, and, when cool, you can dip or drizzle them with melted chocolate. Let your imagination soar! In addition, these delicate beauties add a welcome crunch to ice cream!

(I had to add a meringue mushroom, this one smudged with cocoa to add a "rustic" effect! They're so cute!)

Lacy Nut Cookies

Makes about 4 dozen


1 cup plus 5 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups chopped nuts (almonds, blanched hazelnuts, or pecans)


In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until fluffy. With the mixer running, add the corn syrup. Turn speed to low. Add flour; mix to combine. Add nuts; mix to combine. 

Place an approximately 12"x16" piece of parchment on a work surface. Spoon dough across the middle of the parchment. Fold the parchment over the dough, and using a ruler to slide evenly, press and roll the dough into a log. Freeze at least 30 minutes before baking.

Remove parchment from the log. Slice into 1/2"-thick rounds. Place rounds on a baking sheet, 4 at a time, 3 1/2" apart. Bake until golden and lacy, about 12 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Bake or freeze the remaining dough. Store cookies in an airtight container up to 2 weeks.

Adapted from Crafts and Keepsakes for the Holidays, by Martha Stewart Living.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Meet Bee and Dee

I tried to research the history of peppermint bark, but found nothing. However, I did find this:

Well, that should give you a pretty good idea how to make peppermint bark, but that's not exactly how I do it. I add peppermint extract and half of the crushed peppermint to the white chocolate, and top it with the remaining crushed candy. You can also drizzle dark chocolate across the top, if you feel the urge. This is one of the easiest recipes, ever! It's just as good, if not better, than any you could buy at the store! It also makes a nice gift!

Peppermint Bark:


2, 10-12 oz. bags of white chocolate chocolate chips
1, 10-12 oz. bag of dark chocolate
12 large candy canes, crushed (pop them into a plastic bag and bash away, get your kids to do it)
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract


Line a 11"x17" baking sheet with parchment paper. Melt the dark chocolate in a microwave safe bowl, about 15 seconds at a time, stirring after each interval. When smooth and melted, spread dark chocolate evenly across the parchment. Place the pan into the refrigerator until set.

Meanwhile, melt the white chocolate the same way. When melted, quickly stir in the peppermint extract and half of the crushed candy canes. Spread evenly over the dark chocolate. Sprinkle over the remaining candy, pressing in gently, and allow to cool completely. You can chill it in the refrigerator until both layers are set and firm. Break or cut into pieces (I use a very sharp chef's knife), and voila!

*Note: Sometimes when breaking or cutting the peppermint bark, the chocolate layers may break apart. Some people say you should let it sit overnight before cutting, some people say you should cut it while the white chocolate is still slightly soft, and some people say they've never had any problems. Well, I've had mine split apart before, and you know what, it's still delicious! Good Luck!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Dinner Chez Moi

I am excited to announce that for my birthday, I received Laura Calder's new cookbook, Dinner Chez Moi: The Fine Art of Feeding Friends. I have been chomping at the bit to get my hands on it!

I immediately began flipping through this charming cookbook; and, to my surprise, there is an entire section devoted to birthday cakes!!! How fitting! So, completing my Birthday Menu, I made "Coconut Cake with Marshmallow Icing." I have never made marshmallow fluff before, and was a little worried about drizzling hot sugar syrup into beaten egg whites. However, it turned out great! This cake has a subtle coconut flavor, is moist, refrigerates very well, and the texture is amazing! If that's not enough, it's pretty and delicious! 

Coconut Cake with Marshmallow Icing


For the cake
3 cups cake-and-pastry flour (e.g., Swans Down)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup coconut milk

For the icing
2 egg whites
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the topping
Toasted coconut (spread out 2 handfuls of coconut on a baking sheet, bake at 400 degrees, stirring occasionally until evenly browned, watch it!)


Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottoms of two 10" cake pans (I used 9", and it was fine) with parchment paper.

For the cake
Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl. In a separate bowl, and preferably using electric beaters (I used a stand mixer, scraping down the sides regularly), beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, then beat in the vanilla. Alternately beat in the dry ingredients and the coconut milk, adding about a third of each at a time. Divide the batter between the pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool on racks.

For the icing
Put the egg whites and cream of tartar in a bowl. Put the sugar and water in a saucepan and boil until a drop in a cold glass of water forms a soft ball (238 degrees F, if you use a candy thermometer, which I did). Remove from the heat. Beat the whites and cream of tartar to peaks (again, I used a stand mixer), then continue beating while pouring the syrup in a thin stream. Add the vanilla at the end. 

Place a cake layer on a serving plate. Spread some icing on top and sprinkle over a handful of toasted coconut. Top with the second layer, and ice the sides and top of the cake. Strew some toasted coconut on the top to decorate.

Monday, December 5, 2011

What I Want to Eat on My Birthday!

As you may or may not know, my birthday was last Friday; and, I made a menu that I would enjoy:

I was looking for a light first course featuring crab, and stumbled upon "Crab Louie Salad," also known as "Crab Louis Salad," and "King of Salads." I had never heard of it before! Apparently, this is a famous west coast specialty, and a favorite of James Beard, that began popping up on restaurant menus somewhere between 1904 and 1917. In my research, I found that there are many versions of this salad, but the star ingredient is Dungeness crab (a delicacy of the region). The remaining ingredients vary widely, but consist of some variation of the following:
  • Lump crabmeat,
  • Crab Louie, Thousand Island, or Russian dressing,
  • Romaine, Iceberg, Boston, or Endive lettuce,
  • Fresh tomatoes,
  • Boiled eggs,
  • Cucumber,
  • Asparagus,
  • Olives, and
  • Avocado.
I chose Wolfgang Puck's version because it looks fantastic! I thought it was the perfect starter for a heavy main course. It tasted fresh and really stimulated my palate! This would also be perfect on a hot summer day!

Crab Louie

Serves 4


8 oz. jumbo lump crab
3 tablespoons Crab Louie dressing (recipe below), Thousand Island or Russian dressing
2 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped
1 large (may need more depending on size) vine-ripened tomato, diced and well drained
1/4 cup red onion, finely diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pinch of sugar
1 teaspoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
16 red endive leaves (I couldn't find red, so I had to use white.)
1 whole avocado, diced
1 ring mold (click here for more information)


Pick through the crab meat thoroughly and remove any shells. Place the crab in a small bowl, and fold in the dressing and chives. Set aside. In a separate bowl, combine the tomato, onion, olive oil, salt, pepper, sugar, and parsley to make a nice relish.

To plate:
Set the ring mold (or in my case, a can) in the center of the plate. Place 4 endive leaves around the mold, creating a flower pattern. Spoon 1/4 of the crab mixture in the mold, pressing down with the spoon. Next, spoon in 1/4 of the avocado, pressing down. Finally, spoon in 1/4 of the tomato relish, pressing down. Now, carefully lift the mold and smile! Repeat with the remaining 3 plates.

Crab Louie Dressing

1 1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup chili sauce
3 tablespoons minced green bell pepper (or sweet relish, if you prefer)
3 tablespoons minced green onions with some green tops
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
Salt and pepper, to taste

Mix all ingredients. Refrigerate until ready to use.

You may also like Crab and Avocado Salad.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Gratin Dauphinois' Healthy Cousin

Everyone loves potatoes! Mashed, boiled, fried or baked, they are usually loaded with butter and heavy cream, not exactly good for you. So, when you want a creamy potato dish that isn't loaded with fat, make "Pommes de Terre a la Boulangere", or "Boulangere Potatoes". This is an old French classic. The story goes that you would take your pan of potatoes to the local baker's oven (once the daily bread was finished) and roast your meat on a higher rack, letting the juices flavor the potatoes. How resourceful! The result is a creamy potato dish layered with sweet onions, slowly roasted in beef broth until slightly crisp on the edges. It's so savory, you won't miss the cream!

Boulangere Potatoes

Serves 6


3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 onions, sliced
2 pounds thinly sliced potatoes (a variety of potatoes looks nice, too)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Handful chopped fresh thyme
2 cups beef stock or chicken stock (beef is more authentic)


Heat the oven to 300 degrees. Melt half the butter with the olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat, and gently fry the onions until soft and lightly golden, about 15 minutes. Spread half of the onions in the bottom of a medium shallow casserole. Layer half of the sliced potatoes on top, season with salt and pepper, and scatter over the thyme. Build another layer of onions, then a final one of potatoes, and finally pour in the stock. Dot with the remaining butter. Cover with foil, and bake until all the liquid has been completely absorbed, 2 to 3 hours, removing the foil for the last hour.

Recipe from French Taste: Elegant Everday Eating, by Laura Calder.  For Gratin Dauphinois, click here.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Dolphin Potatoes?

"Gratin Dauphinois" is a specialty of the former Dauphine region of France. Dauphine was located in southeastern France (now Isere, Drome, and Hautes-Alpes), and was an independent state from 1040 to 1349. After joining France, it maintained autonomy until 1457. Dauphine was ruled under the Counts of Albon, whose coat of arms bore a dolphin, thus the name. This luxurious potato dish, loaded with butter, cream, and Gruyere cheese, is definitely as extravagant as it is delicious! This is a classic, you should know! 

Gratin Dauphinois

Serves 6


2 1/4 pounds baking potatoes (I prefer Yukon Gold potatoes!)
1 garlic clove, crushed
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus extra softened butter for the dish
2 1/2 cups half-and-half
Kosher or sea salt, to taste (about 2 teaspoons)
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup (4 oz.) freshly shredded Gruyere (use really good imported Gruyere, if possible)


Heat the oven to 300 degrees.

Peel the potatoes and slice them thin using a mandoline or a food processor. Place the potato slices in a large bowl of cold water and move them around to get rid of excess starch. Drain well and dry thoroughly; use a salad spinner or else put the slices in a kitchen towel, gather the corners together, go outside, and swing your arm as fast and vigorously as you can. (I get my husband to do this for me, which makes me laugh, everytime!)

Rub a large shallow baking dish with the garlic clove and a little butter.

Put the butter with the cream in a large saucepan and bring just to a boil. Finely dice what's left of the garlic and add it to the butter and cream, along with the sliced potatoes, salt, and pepper. Gently simmer for 8 minutes.

Transfer to the prepared dish, spread evenly and top with the Gruyere. Bake for 1 1/2 hours, or until golden brown and bubbly. 

Recipe from My French Kitchen, by Joanne Harris and Fran Warde. For Boulangere Potatoes, click here.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

"One-Pan" and a Fire Extinguisher

I had good intentions. In fact, I'd already written a spiel about eating Thanksgiving in a restaurant, table for 2, how sad. So, I wanted to show you how to make a "One-Pan Thanksgiving Dinner", for people in small kitchens or without family nearby. However, after nearly burning up my kitchen in a cognac blaze, (I should have removed the pan from the heat before adding the cognac), maybe reservations aren't such a bad thing! The recipe I made was Turkey Paupiettes with Chestnuts and Brussels Sprouts. It wasn't very good, tedious, bland, and had a "brainy" appearance. I don't recommend it.

However, the recipe suggested serving the paupiettes with a squash or pumpkin puree. My husband detests pumpkin, so I made roasted sweet potato puree. Honestly, they are simple (and not hazardous), and were the best thing on the plate! This picture isn't Bobby Flay's "Whipped Chipotle Sweet Potatoes", but; were made the same way (without the chipotle) and plainly mashed with a potato masher. After realizing I was going to have to replace my burnt and shriveled range hood, grease filter, screen things (if you find the need yourself, Lowe's carries them in the stores - thankfully), I just didn't care anymore. Wine?

Whipped Chipotle Sweet Potatoes

Serves 8-10


5 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, scrubbed
1 tablespoon (1 1/2-2 chiles) minced chipotle chiles in adobo, or to taste, mashed to a paste (these are sold in small cans at the store)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-size pieces, at room temperature
1 teaspoon salt


Adjust the rack to the middle and preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and butter a shallow, 2-quart glass or ceramic baking dish.

Pierce each potato several times with a fork, place on the baking sheet, and bake until very soft, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Remove the potatoes from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees.

When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, halve them and scoop the flesh into a bowl. Beat the potatoes, chile paste, butter, and salt with an electric mixer on medium speed just until smooth. Spread in the prepared baking dish. Bake until hot, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve immediately. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Fine! I Give In!

I was reading one of my new cookbooks the other day, and there it is AGAIN: "Spaghetti Aglio E Olio," a.k.a., "Spaghetti with Oil and Garlic" or "Spaghetti with Garlic, Chili, and Oil." I think I've seen this recipe in at least 6 or 7 of my cookbooks; but, have never made it because I thought, "How good can that be?" Well, I sat down my book and made a bowl for my lunch. I have to admit, it is an alluring pasta dish. So simple. So pure. You really do focus on the flavor of the pasta, and the heat is nice, too. This would be elegant as a first-course in an Italian menu, or even just for lunch. This dish is served without cheese, but a tablespoon of seasoned breadcrumbs makes a nice addition.

Spaghetti Aglio E Olio

Serves 6 (as a first-course)


1 pound spaghetti
6 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2-1 teaspoons chili pepper flakes
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (use the best you've got, it's important here)
2 handfuls flat-leaf Italian parsley, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Seasoned breadcrumbs, for serving (optional)


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the spaghetti, until al dente.

Meanwhile, fry the garlic gently in the oil over medium-low heat until the garlic is yellow, about 3 minutes. Add the chili pepper flakes, and turn the heat to low until the pasta is done. Remove the garlic.  As soon as the pasta is done, drain it and tip it into the pan and toss with the oil and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Lazy Daze

Where I live, we've already had our first freeze. Brrr! I've been packaging rescued green tomatoes, wrapping each individually in newspaper, and putting them in a cardboard box with an apple (emits ethylene gas which helps stimulate ripening). I put the box in a cool spot and wait for the tomatoes to ripen. But you have to check them everyday, inevitably, one will go bad, just toss it. It all seems so sudden. My basil's gone, geraniums gone, trees are bare, and the days are shorter. It makes me long for the season past. At times like these, I make Spaghetti with Tomato Confit, Basil, and Parmesan. It reminds me of those lazy hours, lingering in the sunshine.

Spaghetti with Tomato Confit, Basil, and Parmesan

Serves 4 (This begs for a crusty baguette.)


1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more (about 1/4 cup) for serving
1 red onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
6 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
18 fresh basil leaves, plus 1/4 cup for serving (if large, cut into thin ribbons)
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
About 50 cherry tomatoes, rinsed and patted dry
3 teaspoons Kosher salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 pound spaghetti
2 cups loosely packed arugla or baby spinach
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan for serving


Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.

Heat the 1/4 cup oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add the whole basil leaves and red pepper flakes and stir well.

Toss the tomatoes with the 1 teaspoon of the salt and the sugar and place in a 8"x12" roasting pan, lined with foil. The pan should be large enough to hold them in a single layer. If they won't fit, use another roasting pan and more oil. Spoon the onion mixture over the tomatoes. Add enough oil to come halfway up the tomatoes. Roast until the tomatoes are very tender, about 2 hours. Stir once, gently, during the roasting. You can roast the tomatoes up to 6 hours ahead.

Bring a large pot of water with the remaining 2 teaspoons salt to a boil. Add the spaghetti and stir constantly until the water returns to a boil. Cook until the pasta is al dente, about 7 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the tomatoes and onion in a large saucepan over low heat. When the pasta is done, drain and transfer to the saucepan with the tomatoes. Add the arugula or spinach. Toss well. Add the basil and toss again.

Serve immediately in warm shallow bowls with Parmesan sprinkled over the top.

Adapted from The Tomato Festival Cookbook, by Lawrence Davis-Hollander. I love this!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Eggs Benedict and a Bloody Mary

I've heard rumors, but is it really possible to make hollandaise sauce in a blender? The answer is YES! All these years, I've been whisking and carefully trying to create this beautiful sauce over a water bath, gently monitoring it's progress, hoping I wouldn't curdle or split the sauce. No wonder I only make it on special occasions! Well, not anymore! Try it, you won't believe it!

Blender Hollandaise

3 egg yolks
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup melted butter
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons chives, chopped
Pinch of cayenne or Tabasco sauce (optional)

Put the egg yolks, salt and pepper in a blender. (An immersion blender/cup works even better!) With the blender running, slowly drizzle (literally drop by drop) in the butter until emulsified. Stir in the lemon and chives. Taste and adjust seasoning. Hold the sauce in a bowl of hot water or thermos, until ready to serve. Seriously, it's that easy!

*You must use very fresh eggs, as this is a raw sauce.

Friday, November 11, 2011

I'm A Sucker For Cow's Doing The Jig

Concluding my "Irish Dinner Night", I finished the meal with Ben & Jerry's Dublin Mudslide ice cream.

Who knew that this ice cream shop, which opened in 1978, in a dilapidated gas station in Burlington, Vermont, would last this long, and make some of the best ice cream, EVER! Normally, I'm a purist and insist on making everything from scratch, but sometimes you just have to let go and serve something easy. In fact, I don't think I could beat this decadent flavor! There's no shame in serving this; in fact, do the jig and serve it proudly! Yum!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Save your Palate! Go Green!

Now you know they're good for you, but what do you do with tomatillos? A lot! These tangy little beauties are primarily used to make salsa and sauces in three ways:
  1. Briefly boiled for a bright, green salsa and sauce, perfect for chips, chicken, fish, tacos, tostadas, and enchiladas;
  2. Roasted for a rich, slightly browned salsa and sauce, perfect for beef, pork, and lamb;
  3. They are also great for braising things, e.g., pork and even brisket!
When I was in California, recently, I was astonished to see some of my extended family devouring a tomatillo salsa, and not having a clue what it was or how to make it. Well, let's make a basic simmered tomatillo salsa, a.k.a, salsa verde!

Simmered Tomatillo Salsa (Salsa Verde Cocida)

Makes 2 cups. Salsa will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week. If frozen, whiz it up in a blender or processor to restore it's smooth texture.


1 pound green tomatillos
2 garlic cloves, peeled
3 serrano chiles, or more to taste
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
1/2 cup white onion, roughly chopped
1-1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt, or to taste
1-1/2 tablespoons canola oil


Remove the husks (usually a little sticky) and pull off the stems from the tomatillos. Wash them.

Bring the tomatillos, garlic, and serranos to a boil in a medium pot of salted water.

Lower the heat and simmer about 10 minutes, until the tomatillos have softened slightly and lost their brightness everywhere except on the indented stem, like this:

Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid, and drain everything in a colander, allow to cool slightly. Cut the stems off the serranos and place everything, along with the 1/2 cup cooking liquid, in a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Add the onion and 1 teaspoon salt, pulse a few times. (You don't want to completely lose the onion texture.)

Heat the oil in the pot you used for boiling over medium, medium-high heat. When hot enough to make a drop of the puree sizzle, stand back, and pour it all in at once. Bring to a simmer and stir constantly for about 6-7 minutes, until it thickens and deepens color. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Stir in the cilantro, taste to see if it needs salt, usually does, about 1/2 teaspoon or so. Now, it's ready to serve!

Adapted from Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen (one of my favorite cookbooks, EVER!)

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

My kitty, Audrey, likes Halloween, too!

Today, I'm giving you the most delicious soup recipe! It is great on a chilly day, like Halloween! Fresh vegetables, fresh herbs, a hint of crushed red pepper, and awesome homemade croutons really make it sing. Even my carnivore husband loves it!

(Oops! I forgot the fried sage leaves in the picture!)

Superb Squash Soup with the Best Parmesan Croutons

Serves 8, great leftover for lunch!


For the soup:
Olive oil, like WeOlive oil
16 fresh sage leaves
2 red onions, peeled and chopped
2 sticks celery, trimmed and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1/4 teaspoon crushed red chile pepper
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 1/4 pounds butternut squash, onion squash, or musque de Provence, halved, deseeded and cut into chunks
2 quarts good-quality chicken or vegetable stock

For the croutons:
Extra-virgin olive oil
16 slices ciabatta bread
1 chunk Parmesan, for grating


In a very large saucepan on medium heat, add a couple glugs of olive oil. Add the sage leaves and fry for around 30 seconds or until dark green and crisp. Quickly remove them with a slotted spoon to a bowl lined with paper towels - you'll use these for sprinkling over the soup at the end. In the pan you'll be left with a beautiful flavored oil.

Add the onion, celery, carrot, garlic, rosemary, chile  and a good pinch of salt and pepper to the pan. Cook gently, for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables are sweet and soft.

Add the squash and the stock to the pan, bring to a boil and simmer for around 30 minutes.

While the soup is cooking, make the croutons. Drizzle a little olive oil over the ciabatta slices, and press some grated Parmesan onto each side. Place in a non-stick pan, without any oil, and fry until golden on both sides.

When the squash is soft and cooked through, remove the rosemary sprigs and whiz the soup with an immersion blender or standard blender and pulse until you have a smooth puree. (Be careful when blending hot liquids.) Most importantly, remember to taste and season it until it's perfect. Divide the soup between your bowls, placing 2 croutons on top of each. Sprinkle with a few of your crispy sage leaves and drizzle with a swirl of good-quality olive oil.

Recipe adapted from "Jamie at Home" by Jamie Oliver.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

I Believe!!!

*I do not own the copyrights to the following videos or music. The videos are from, courtesy of Fox and KMOX, and the music is "Dark Horses" by Switchfoot, from their album "Vice Verses."*

Thanks to zsisgreat, whoever you are!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Olive Oil Tasting? YES!!!

I'm very familiar with wine tasting, but olive oil tasting? Never, until now! During my recent jaunt to California, I was encouraged to visit WeOlive in San Luis Obispo. They were more than delighted to offer me an olive oil tasting of various Californian olive oils. It was an eye-opening experience to realize the dynamic diversity of various olive oils. In my euphoria, I dropped a pretty penny on four bottles, which WeOlive was more than happy to ship to my home. Some of their products are available online, if you feel the urge.

Well, with my spanking new bottles of premium, high-quality olive oil, fresh from California, I was inspired to make Joanne Weir's recipe for "Feta Preserved in Fruity Virgin Olive Oil with Summer Herbs". Preserving feta this way transforms it into a firmer, more flavorful cheese, great enjoyed with crusty bread, olives, roasted peppers, and capers. I also couldn't resist adding a bow to show that it makes a great gift!

Feta Preserved in Fruity Virgin Olive Oil with Summer Herbs

Serves 6


3 sprigs fresh oregano
1 sprig fresh rosemary
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 sprigs savory (optional)
3/4 pound feta cheese
extra virgin olive oil
2 sprigs rosemary, for garnish


With the spine of a chef's knife, tap the herb sprigs gently to bruise the stems slightly.

Warm 1 cup of olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the herbs and heat just until the herbs sizzle, 30 to 60 seconds. Do not boil the oil! Remove from the heat and let cool.

Place half the herbs and olive oil in a 1-pint jar. Cut the feta to fit into the jar. Add the remaining herbs and oil to the jar. Add enough additional oil to cover the feta completely. Cover the jar and place in the refrigerator for a minimum of 2 weeks.

To serve, bring the feta to room temperature and place on a platter. Discard the herb sprigs. Drizzle a few tablespoons of the oil over the cheese. Sprinkle with chopped fresh herbs, garnish with rosemary sprigs, and serve.

Recipe by Joanne Weir, Weir Cooking: Recipes From The Wine Country.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

It's NOT Rice-A-Roni!

I don't know who those people are, but Rice-A-Roni is NOT the San Francisco treat, it's Cioppino! Cioppino (chip-pee-no) is a seafood laden stew developed by Portuguese and Italian fishermen who settled in San Francisco in the late 1800s. Supposedly, the fishermen would "chip in" portions of their daily catch to create this regional dish. I found this spicy tomato based stew on menus everywhere in California, so I gave it a try.  It was delicious and began to search for the perfect recipe. There are tons of versions, some use fennel, some use Pernod (that anise flavored liquor), some used green bell peppers, some used white wine, and some used red.  How to choose? Well, since this is my first attempt, I decided to use the most basic version I could find. (I'm sure that's how they did it originally.) I did read that, as long as it contains dungeness crab and is served with sourdough bread, you cannot make a bad cioppino! So here goes:

(Mussels would probably look more beautiful!)


Serves 6


2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 celery rib, finely diced
1 cup onion, diced
4-6 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups white wine (Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc)
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 can (28 oz) tomato puree or tomato sauce
2 cups water, clam juice, fish or seafood stock, plus more as needed to adjust thickness
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
5-6 thin slices of lemon
8 oz fresh halibut, cod, salmon, cut into 1-inch pieces or any other white fish
1 cooked Dungeness crab (about 2 lbs), cracked and cleaned, or 1 lb frozen crabmeat thawed (I couldn't find Dungeness, so I used King crab)
1 lb raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 lb fresh clams or mussels (I used little neck clams)
8 oz fresh sea or bay scallops
1/2 cup chopped fresh herbs (Italian parsley, basil, and/or tarragon)
1 loaf sourdough bread (to serve)


In a large pot or dutch oven, over medium, medium-low heat, add the olive oil and butter. Add the onion, celery, and a pinch of salt. Saute until translucent, but not brown, about 6-7 minutes. Add the garlic and saute another minute. Next add the wine and bring to a simmer. Then throw in the bay leaf, oregano, thyme, red pepper flakes, and Worcestershire sauce. Stir and add the tomato puree (or whatever you're using) and 1 cup of the stock/water/fish/clam juice. Raise the heat to medium and bring to a boil, turn heat to low and simmer for about 35 minutes. If it looks too thick, you can thin it out with an additional 1 cup of water or stock, if you wish.

Now taste it to see if it needs any additional salt. Raise the heat to medium-high. Add the lemon slices and white fish, bring to a simmer. Next add the crab and shrimp. Stir and add the clams or mussels and scallops. Cover and let sit for 5 minutes or so. (You'll know when it's done when the clam or mussel shells are opened.) Discard any unopened clams or mussels - don't eat them! Add the fresh herbs and taste for salt, pepper, and additional red pepper flakes, to taste. Serve with a crusty sourdough loaf.

Few! I did it! That wasn't hard! How did it turn out? Well, like I read, you can't make a bad cioppino! Delicious! Try it! Use whatever seafood you like!

Recipe adapted from Chef John of

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

So Many Wines, So Little Time

Continuing my brief excursion through the California Central Coast, I visited the Edna Valley Vineyard in San Luis Obispo. I strongly recommend you check out their website at It really is a beautiful setting! Anyway, we sauntered into the Tasting Room to partake in a wine tasting! We got to try 6 varieties. (I really liked their 2009 Fleur de Edna Chardonnay.) It was really fun! If you ever get a chance to go, I definitely recommend it!

All those grapes got me thinking about Laura Calder's "Wine Jelly with Grapes." This unusual dessert is definitely eye-catching and truly delicious! It calls for dry white wine or sparkling wine, so I used my favorite, champagne! It is a sophisticated dessert, for adults only! 

Wine Jelly with Grapes

Serves 6


1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin
2 tablespoons water
1 cup/200 g sugar
2 cups/500 ml dry white or sparkling wine
About 15 ounces/420 g small, seedless red and green grapes
3/4 cup/175 ml heavy cream
2 teaspoons sugar, more to taste
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or Cognac


Stir the gelatin into 2 tablespoons of water and set aside to soften. Put the sugar and wine in a saucepan and heat to dissolve the sugar. Do not boil. Remove the wine from the heat and whisk in the gelatin until completely dissolved. Cool.

Arrange the grapes in 6 ramekins or tea cups. Pour over the wine mixture. Cover and chill several hours to set. To serve, run a knife around the edge of the molds and dip the bottoms into hot water for a few seconds, then invert onto serving plates.

In a bowl, whip the heavy cream with the sugar and flavoring to serve alongside.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Magnificent Hearst Castle

I've been running around the California Central Coast and was lucky enough to tour the Hearst Castle! This amazing place, nestled in the hills of San Simeon with spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean, is part of the California State Park system. In 1919, William Randolph Hearst, son of a wealthy miner, began construction with famed architect Julia Morgan to build his dream home. By 1947, they had created an estate of 165 rooms and 127 acres of gardens, terraces, pools, and walkways. The main house, "Casa Grande", along with three guest houses were designed in a Mediterranean Revival style, inspired by a Spanish cathedral. The estate is filled with European and Mediterranean art and antiques. Here are a few of my pictures:

Casa Grande!

The Dining Room!

Place settings in the dining room; apparently,
Hearst really liked Del Monte "Catsup" and French's mustard!

The Neptune Pool!

One of many breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean;
which, should be enjoyed with my favorite cocktail:



One bottle of your favorite champagne


Poor into a nice champagne flute, pretend this is your home, and enjoy!