Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Hot sauce

There are several member of my extended family who love spicy foods, so I thought of doing something on the hot side for my gift baskets this year.

Here's the hot sauce recipe that I will be using for Christmas gifts this year. I intend to try it out this week to make sure it is good. But really with these ingredients, how can it go wrong??? I'll update this post after I've made it to report how it goes.

Habanero Hot Sauce

  • 1 small onion -- chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic -- chopped
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 cup carrots -- chopped
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 Habanero chilies (3 or 4) -- minced
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt


Quick note: This is probably a no-brainer to say, but do be very careful when handling the Habaneros. Use latex gloves if you have them when mincing them and do not touch your face or eyes until you have washed your hands thoroughly.

Saute onion in oil until soft. Add carrots and water. Bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer until the carrots are soft. Remove from heat. Add chilies, lime juice and salt to the carrot mixture. Place in processor and puree until smooth. Pour into sterilized jars and seal.

Update: this hot sauce turned out beautifully. It is a great orange color and has a nice kick to it, but not so overwhelming as some other hot sauces. Perfect for the people I'm giving it to for Christmas!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Lemon Curd

Preparations continue for the holiday gift baskets with this tasty treat: Lemon Curd. For anyone who's never seen or tasted it, lemon curd will come as a surprise. It's roughly the same consistency as custard, but a brighter yellow and the scent of lemon wafting from the mix can transport you right back into summer...a nice treat during the cold winter months.

It is great on scones, on pastries or you can use it as filling layers for a cake.

Lemon Curd
Makes 1 serving.
1/3 cup lemon juice plus zest, from 2 lemons
2 large eggs
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter , cut into 1/2-inch cubes and chilled
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt


1. Heat lemon juice and zest in small nonreactive saucepan over medium heat until hot but not boiling. Whisk eggs and yolk in medium nonreactive bowl; gradually whisk in sugar. Whisking constantly, slowly pour hot lemon juice into eggs, then return mixture to saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with wooden spoon, until mixture registers 170 degrees on instant-read thermometer and is thick enough to cling to spoon, about 3 minutes.

2. Immediately remove pan from heat and stir in cold butter until incorporated; stir in cream, vanilla, and salt, then pour curd through fine-mesh strainer into small nonreactive bowl. Cover surface of curd directly with plastic wrap or pour into sterile jars and seal; refrigerate until needed.

The curd will keep for about a month in the refrigerator.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Homemade Vanilla

Something new for this year's Christmas goodie bags: homemade vanilla extract. You need to start this one a little bit in advance...around four to six weeks ahead of plan accordingly.

The nice thing about making your own vanilla extract is that it isn't difficult to do and it takes only a few supplies.

First step is to choose the type of vanilla bean you want to use. Here are some varieties and the characteristics of each.
Madagascar - the strongest, most intense vanilla flavor with a full body
Bourbon - notes of berry and ripe fruit
Mexican - sweet and smooth, mellow and spicy
Tahitian - delicate, exotic, and floral
Tonga - rich, full flavored
Indonesian - sweet and woody
India - high percentage of seeds, sweet, woody, and spicy

I ordered some Madagascar beans for my first attempt at this and they just arrived yesterday. The smell from the package was almost overwhelming.

Ingredients and equipment
Large mason jar
Lid and screw down ring
2 cups vodka
6 vanilla beans

Cut the beans in half lengthwise.
Add the beans to the jar.
Cover with the vodka.
Store in a cool, dark place and shake every couple of days for at least a month. The longer you let it stand, the more intense the flavor will be.
When you get it to the point you like it, strain in through a coffee filter or cheesecloth into dark bottles and seal tightly.

You can vary the flavor by using different combinations of beans or adding another spice during storage.
Add a few buds of edible lavender.
Add a whole clove.
Add a part of a cinnamon stick.
Add a teaspoon of brandy per 8 ounces. You can also make the vanilla in brandy or rum for a different flavor.

12/9 UPDATE: It has been a few weeks since I started the vanilla and it already looks great! This is definitely the way to go to make vanilla extract.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Chicken Liver Pate

We got this one from Bon Appetit and the BA Foodist and put jars of it in last year's Christmas gift bags. Since it went over so well last year, it will very likely get a repeat inclusion this year.


  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
  • 4 bacon slices, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 12 ounces chicken livers, trimmed
  • 1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, cut into 1/4- to 1/3-inch cubes (about 1 1/3 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh marjoram
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled, quartered
  • 2 tablespoons dry Sherry, bourbon, or Cognac
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • Fresh parsley sprig
  • Rye bread slices, toasted


  • Melt 1/4 cup butter in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add bacon and sauté until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add onion and sauté until pale golden, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and stir 1 minute. Add chicken livers, apple, and marjoram; sauté until livers are no longer pink inside and apple is soft, about 8 minutes.
  • Transfer warm liver mixture to processor. Add hard-boiled eggs, Sherry, and salt; puree until almost smooth. Transfer mixture to fine to medium sieve set over large bowl. Using sturdy rubber spatula, press mixture through sieve into bowl. Mix in remaining 1/2 cup butter. Season pâté to taste with freshly ground pepper. Transfer to small serving bowl. DO AHEAD Can be made 4 days ahead. Cover and chill.
  • Garnish pâté with parsley and serve with toasted rye bread.

Chocolate Hazelnut Spread

We love making our own Christmas presents. It is our thought that by taking the time and effort to make something for our family members, we are giving much more than just buying something at the store.

Here is one of the items our family members might be receiving in the annual Christmas goodie bags. I just ordered the jars for these and several other items that will be discussed in future posts.

Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread (just like Nutella)
(this is for 4 servings)
1/3 cup hazelnuts, with the skin on
3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
3 tablespoons honey

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Place nuts in a single layer on a shallow baking pan. Toast until the skins are almost black, about 15 minutes. Wrap the nuts in a kitchen towel and rub until most of the skins have come off.
Process nuts in food processor scraping down sides of bowl occasionally for about 5 minutes. Set aside.
Combine milk, chocolate and honey in heatproof bowl or top of double boiler and set over a pan of simmering water. Stirring occasionally, heat until chocolate has melted.
Add the chocolate mixture to the liquefied nuts and process until mixture is smooth, about 5 minutes.
Transfer to airtight container and store refrigerated up to 1 month.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster

In honor of the 30th anniversary of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, I thought it would be a good idea to find a recipe for an appropriate toast...

According to the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster is "the best drink in existence. Drinking one is like having your brains smashed out by a slice of lemon wrapped around a LARGE gold brick. Drink...but...very carefully..."

Here's a modern day version of the drink:


  • 1/2 oz Vodka
  • 1/2 oz Yukon Jack
  • 1/2 oz Peach Schnapps
  • 1/2 oz Jack Daniels
  • 1/2 oz Triple sec
  • 1/2 oz Grenadine
  • Lime juice
  • Pineapple juice
  • Top with 7-Up

Mixing instructions:

Fill Collins glass with ice. Add first 5 ingredients. Fill glass almost to the top with pineapple and lime juices, add Grenadine for color, and top off the glass with 7-Up or Slice. Shake or stir.

Here is the recipe as it occurs in the book...

"Take the juice from one bottle of that Ol' Janx Spirit.
Pour into it one measure of water from the seas of Santraginus V
Allow three cubes of Arcturan Mega-gin to melt into the mixture (it must be properly iced or the benzene is lost).
Allow four litres of Fallian marsh gas to bubble through it (in memory of all those happy Hikers who have died of pleasure in the Marshes of Fallia).
Over the back of a silver spoon float a measure of Qualactin Hypermint extract, redolent of all the heady odours of the dark Qualactin Zones.
Drop in the tooth of an Algolian Suntiger. Watch it dissolve, spreading the fires of the Algolian suns deep into the heart of the drink.
Sprinkle Zamphour.
Add an olive.
Drink...but very carefully."

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

RIP Gourmet

It is a sad, sad day for foodies...How depressing is it that the oldest food magazine in the country is no longer going to publish its magazine?

To Gourmet magazine - we will miss you. You have inspired many delicious creations from my kitchen.

And to Gourmet editor in chief Ruth Reichl - you're awesome. We love you and look forward to reading about your next adventures.

So what's going to happen to my subscription? Do I get a refund?


In honor of it being German-American day, here is a good recipe for you get the added bonus of it being fun to simply say "wiener schnitzel" in a German accent.

This also may be a great time to check out some of the great German beers out this time of of my favorites is the Spaten Oktoberfest. It is generally only available right now until November or there get it while you can!

Schnitzel (Breaded Pork Cutlets)

Serves 4. From Cook's Illustrated.

The two cups of oil called for in this recipe may seem like a lot—but they’re necessary to achieve a wrinkled texture on the finished cutlets. When properly cooked, the cutlets absorb very little oil. To ensure ample cooking space, a large Dutch oven is essential. In lieu of an instant-read thermometer to gauge the oil’s temperature, place a fresh (not dry) bread cube in the oil and start heating; when the bread is deep golden brown, the oil is ready.


7 large high quality sandwich bread, crusts removed, cut into 3/4-inch cubes (about 4 cups)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
2 cups plus 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 pork tenderloin (1 1/4 pounds). trimmed of fat and silver skin and cut on angle into 4 equal pieces (see illustration below)
1 lemon , cut into wedges
2 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
2 tablespoons capers , rinsed
1 large hard-cooked egg , yolk and white separated and passed separately through fine-mesh strainer (optional)


  1. Place bread cubes on large microwave-safe plate. Microwave on high power for 4 minutes, stirring well halfway through cooking time. Microwave on medium power until bread is dry and few pieces start to lightly brown, 3 to 5 minutes longer, stirring every minute. Process dry bread in food processor to very fine crumbs, about 45 seconds. Transfer bread crumbs to shallow dish (you should have about 11/4 cups crumbs). Spread flour in second shallow dish. Beat eggs with 1 tablespoon oil in third shallow dish.

  2. Place pork, with 1 cut-side down, between 2 sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap and pound to even thickness between 1/8 and 1/4 inch. Season cutlets with salt and pepper. Working with 1 cutlet at a time, dredge cutlets thoroughly in flour, shaking off excess, then coat with egg mixture, allowing excess to drip back into dish to ensure very thin coating, and coat evenly with bread crumbs, pressing on crumbs to adhere. Place breaded cutlets in single layer on wire rack set over baking sheet; let coating dry 5 minutes.

  3. Heat remaining 2 cups oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until it registers 375 degrees on instant-read thermometer. Lay 2 cutlets, without overlapping, in pan and cook, shaking pan continuously and gently, until cutlets are wrinkled and light golden brown on both sides, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer cutlets to paper towel-lined plate and flip cutlets several times to blot excess oil. Repeat with remaining cutlets. Serve immediately with garnishes.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Skillet Souffle

We have got to try this one from Cooks Illustrated:

Skillet Lemon Souffle...

5 large eggs , separated
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
2/3 cup granulated sugar (4 3/4 ounces)
1/8 teaspoon table salt
1/3 cup juice and 1 teaspoon grated zest from 2 to 3 lemons
2 tablespoons unbleached AP flour
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Confectioners' sugar , for dusting

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Using stand mixer, whip egg whites and cream of tartar together on medium-low speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Slowly add 1/3 cup sugar and salt, then increase speed to medium-high and continue to whip until stiff peaks form, 3 to 5 minutes. Gently transfer whites to clean bowl and set aside.

  2. Using stand mixer (no need to wash mixing bowl), whip yolks and remaining 1/3 cup sugar together on medium-high speed until pale and thick, about 1 minute. Whip in lemon juice, zest, and flour until incorporated, about 30 seconds.

  3. Whisk ¼ of whipped egg whites into yolk mixture until almost no white streaks remain. Gently fold in remaining egg whites until just incorporated.

  4. Melt butter in 10-inch ovenproof skillet over medium-low heat. Swirl pan to coat evenly with melted butter, then gently scrape soufflé batter into skillet and cook until edges begin to set and bubble slightly, about 2 minutes.

  5. Transfer skillet to oven and bake soufflé until puffed, center jiggles slightly when shaken, and surface is golden, 7 to 11 minutes. Using potholder (skillet handle will be hot), remove skillet from oven. Dust soufflé with confectioners’ sugar and serve immediately.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Catch up...

It is hard to believe that we have not posted since May 20th...but that's the way it goes sometimes. It's not like we haven't been cooking.

Today, we have just a couple of birthday cakes to share. The first one, done last week, was for our son's second birthday party. He is all about vehicles these days with particular interest in the three T's: trucks, tractors, and trains. We decided to make the whole party train themed and this is the cake we made:

This cake is one we made for my brother-in-law's 39th birthday over this past weekend. He's a bit of a golf nut, so we went with a golf cake. I couldn't resist sticking the ball in the sand trap.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

BBQ and Booze

Some say that there is only one choice when it comes to pairing a drink with your grilled But with wide variances of tastes and sophistication of palates, I think it is safe to say that many wines and cocktails should also be considered. Here’s a guide to matching almost any barbecue staple to wine, beer and even cocktails.

Spice of life

No matter what you’re cooking up, there’s a few things that will steer you decision. Spicy foods require a slightly sweeter accompaniment to help offset their heat. White wines such as Riesling and Gewurztraminer are good choices for things like spicy shrimp kebabs, while reds like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon work well with hot barbecue sauces. Crisp, hoppy lagers that pair well with spicy dishes are Singha from Thailand, with its fruit and spice notes, while Pilsner Urquell from the Czech Republic is another great choice. Sweet cocktails such as fruit daiquiris or piña coladas also help to soothe the spiciness without numbing the palate.

Sweet hereafter

Most barbecue sauces contain a lot of sugar and though some also have a bold, smoky flavor, their sweetness still has to be taken into account when pairing with alcohol. Generally, your drink should always be sweeter than your food — that’s why ice wine, port and liqueurs are often served with dessert. Dark beers such as Newcastle Brown Ale and Guinness contain natural sweetness and smoky notes that pair wonderfully with sweet-basted meats like ribs or chicken. Wines such as Merlot or Sauvignon Blanc are great matches with sweet fare but for different reasons. Merlot because of its ripe fruit flavors of plum and blackberry while Sauvignon Blanc’s crisp acidity helps balance the sweetness of the sauce. Citrus-y cocktails with pronounced lemon or lime flavors work best with sweet sauces, like lime margaritas, mojitos or whiskey sours.


Your barbecue will undoubtedly see a few hamburgers hit its grill before the end of the season and to best feature its hardy goodness and numerous toppings serve either Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon for red wines and Sauvignon Blanc for white. Hoppy, aromatic ales like Bass Pale Ale help to balance the rich beef flavor with its bitter aftertaste. A cool and refreshing gin and tonic with a slice of cucumber will also help cleanse the palate and cut through the rich meat.


Here, the cut of meat is the decision-maker. Mild filet mignon calls for a light red such as Pinot Noir or a heavy white like an oaky Chardonnay. More tasty cuts like New York strip or fatty rib eyes require something more substantial such as a California Zinfandel, especially if there’s a black-pepper crust involved. If you prefer beer with your bovine, a dark smoky ale or stout is in order — either Muskoka Premium Dark Ale or Guiness will do nicely. Few cocktails will hold their own against a well-seasoned steak, though a Bloody Caesar can handle the task.


Cooking directly on cedar or other wood planks has really come into fashion recently and salmon is one type of fish that is both sturdy and rich enough to benefit from the deep smoky flavor planks afford. A crisp Pinot Grigio helps cut through the oily fish and compliments the earthiness of the wood smoke, as do Pinot Noir and Beaujolais as red choices. Belgian blondes or wheat beers are also good options because they’re naturally sweeter and have a fresh citrus aftertaste; add a lemon wedge to really bring this flavor out. Salmon is another meat that goes well with a sour or a whiskey-based cocktail, such as a Manhattan or Rob Roy.

Sausages and pork

Medium to full-bodied reds such as Malbec or Rioja go very well with barbecued pork while whites should have a slight sweetness balanced by crisp fresh apple notes like those from Germany or Alsace. Bavarian beers also compliment pork as long as the choice is not too spicy; choose full-flavored lagers or bock-style beers. Cocktails with pork seem strange, but if you must choose, pick clear spirits such as vodka or white rum with soda or cola.


Whether it’s cut up into pieces or you’re grilling a whole bird, barbecued chicken is a wonderful match with Merlot or Chardonnay. It also lends itself incredibly well to white zinfandel or other rose wines with their sweet berry flavours and fresh acidity. Light, refreshing lagers such as Sleeman Silver Creek or Steam Whistle are two great choices. Cocktails should also be refreshing — think tangy citrus or orange-based.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Chillin' & Grillin'

You'll have to excuse me for a moment as I just got a new gas grill and I now have to do my "I've got a new gas grill" dance.

--Please wait while Pepper does a little shimmy--

OK, all better now.

No but really...I am so loving my new grill.

Since putting it together, there has hardly been a dinner that we have not used the grill.
First up was a couple of NY Strip steaks and some grilled asparagus. Classic, simple...delicious.

Also done up some chicken legs with an Asian spice rub, a tri-tip roast, some burgers and last night we did chicken kebabs.

Grilled Chicken Kebabs

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks
a marinade of your choice (we used a spicy bbq marinade)
2 cups of fruits and veggies of your choice (we used peppers, yellow squash, mushrooms and pineapple.)
A couple tablespoons of olive oil to coat the veggies
Salt and Pepper

1. Mix marinade and chicken in gallon-size zipper-lock plastic bag; seal bag and refrigerate, turning once or twice, until chicken has marinated fully, at least 3 and up to 24 hours.

2. Build a medium-low fire in grill (you can hold your hand 5 inches above grill surface for 5 seconds).

3. Meanwhile, lightly coat vegetables and/or fruit by tossing in medium bowl with oil and salt and pepper to taste.

4. Remove chicken chunks from bag; discard marinade. Thread a portion of chicken and vegetables and/or fruit onto skewers. Grill, turning each kebab one quarter turn every 2 minutes, until chicken and vegetables and/or fruit are lightly browned and meat is fully cooked, about 8 minutes total for white meat and 9 minutes total for dark meat. Check for doneness by cutting into one piece when it looks opaque on all sides. Remove kebabs from grill when there is no pink at the center. Serve immediately.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Salmon Cakes and Broilied Asparagus

After staring at the two salmon fillets we had defrosted last night with a look of "what the hell am I going to do with you two?"...I opted to go with a simple salmon cake preparation. First step, check for necessary ingredients:
1 pound of salmon, diced into 1/4 inch cubes - check
1 slice of white bread - um...I'll get back to you on that.
1 T. mayo - yes
1/4 cup grated onion - maybe
1 T. chopped parsley - just pruned my parsley plant so I know we have that.
1/2 t. salt - of course
lemon juice - yep
flour - got it
1 egg - no prob.
Breadcrumbs, preferably panko - um, not so much. I used up most of the panko when I tried to make deep fried cheese balls - an unsuccessful venture I might add.

So no white bread and no breadcrumbs. No problem...I'll just use up these slightly stale bagels and make my own breadcrumbs - a much tastier option to any store bought breadcrumbs anyway!

Preheat oven to 300. Chop up the bagel in the food processor until desired consistency. Put on a cookie sheet, drizzle with a little oil, sprinkle with some seasoning and pop it in the oven for about 8 minutes until the breadcrumbs are dried out and slightly crispy.

Salmon Cakes

Mix salmon with chopped bread, mayonnaise, onion, parsley, salt, and lemon juice in medium bowl. Oh - I also added a generous dollop of siracha here. Use hands to form into a patty. Place patties in freezer until surface moisture has evaporated, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, spread flour in pie plate or shallow baking dish. Beat eggs in second pie plate or shallow baking dish, and spread bread crumbs in a third. Dip chilled salmon patties in flour to cover; shake off excess. Transfer to beaten egg, turn to coat; let excess drip off. Transfer to bread crumbs; shake pan to coat patties completely.

Heat remaining 1/2 cup vegetable oil in large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking, about 3 minutes; add salmon patties and cook until medium golden brown, about 2 minutes. Flip cakes over and continue cooking until medium golden brown on second side, about 2 minutes longer.

We also roasted up some asparagus to go with these cakes...

Put asparagus on a baking sheet in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and place about 6 inches under the broiler for about 10 minutes.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Cook's Quiz

Are you a trivia nut? Are you ready to test your culinary knowledge?

Question #1: What's the kitchen gizmo to the left?

Question #2: Without looking it up...How many cups does 1 pound of granulated sugar yield? How about 1 pound of powdered sugar?

Question #3: If you've over-salted a soupy concoction such as soup or stew, is there a way to get some of the salt out using a common vegetable?

Question #4: What is the object to the right and how is it used?

Question #5: What is sweetened condensed milk? Does it have a limited shelf life? Can you substitute it for evaporated milk in baking recipes?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Inside-Out Eggplant Parmigiana

We tried this dish from the recent issue of Gourmet earlier this week. If you like Eggplant Parmigiana, then this is a good recipe for you to try. (Pepper - I've always thought that I wasn't much of an eggplant fan, but I'm definitely coming around. This was very tasty.)

Inside-Out Eggplant Parmigiana

For tomato sauce

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 (14-oz) can whole tomatoes in juice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped basil

For eggplant stacks

  • 2 (1-lb) eggplants
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus additional for drizzling
  • 3/4 cup plain dry bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced, divided
  • 6 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot red-pepper flakes
  • 1/2 lb arugula, coarse stems discarded, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup packed basil leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 lb. fresh mozzarella cut into 4 (1/2-inch-thick) slices

Make tomato sauce:

  • Heat oil in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat until it shimmers, then cook onion and garlic, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 6 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, blend tomatoes with juice in a blender until almost smooth. Add to onion mixture in saucepan with water, sugar, and 1/4 tsp salt and simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Stir in basil and keep warm, covered.

Bake eggplant:

  • Preheat oven to 450°F with rack in lowest position.
  • Cut 12 (1/3-inch-thick) rounds from widest portion of eggplants. Brush both sides with 2 Tbsp oil and season with 1/2 tsp salt (total). Bake on an oiled baking sheet, turning once, until golden and tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Transfer to a plate and keep warm, covered. Leave oven on.

Make egg patties and sauté arugula:

  • Stir together bread crumbs, parmesan, parsley, half of garlic, and 1/4 tsp each of salt and pepper, then stir in eggs and water.
  • Heat 3 Tbsp oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. Drop 4 rounded 1/3 cups of egg mixture into skillet and cook, turning once, until patties are golden brown and puffed, about 5 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain.
  • Add remaining Tbsp oil to skillet and cook remaining garlic with red-pepper flakes, stirring, until garlic is golden, about 30 seconds. Add arugula and basil and stir until just wilted, then stir in 1/8 tsp salt.

Assemble stacks:

  • Arrange 4 egg patties about 3 inches apart on a baking sheet. Top each with 2 Tbsp tomato sauce, 1 slice mozzarella, 1 eggplant slice, 2 more Tbsp tomato sauce, another eggplant slice, arugula mixture, and remaining eggplant. Bake until cheese melts, 5 to 10 minutes. Drizzle with additional oil and serve remaining sauce on the side.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Mid-week OM NOM


We haven't done an OM NOM Nomination in a while...and since many people were inspired by St. Patrick's Day to post some delicious Irish or Irish inspired dishes, what better time to do let's get cracking!

The first nomination goes to Me Hungry with her Irish Soda Bread Showdown. I don't know if it is the competitive spirit in me that likes to see this type of showdown or perhaps it is the commitment to try several different recipes to find your favorite (a la America's Test Kitchen)...either way, this post deserves an OM NOM!

The next OM NOM goes to The Wicked Noodle who like us went with a Guinness flavored dish. And you really can't celebrate an Irish holiday without at least one recipe for... Guinness Corned Beef and Cabbage. I raise my pint of Guinness to you Wicked Noodle and present you with an OM NOM.

A delectable finishing dish for our St. Patrick's Day inspired OM NOM Nominations, we go over to Closet Cooking and his Chocolate Stout Cake with Baileys Cream...ok, I have a thing for Guinness. You got me.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Just in time for St. Patty's Day

OK...we're back in business after some technical difficulties with the computer. For many things in life, you never really realize how good you've got it until its gone. In any case, everything seems to be working well again and just in time to celebrate St. Patrick's Day!

Seeing how it is one of my favorite drinks, I feel it absolutely necessary to highlight some recipes that use Guinness Stout. And there are some good ones out there including Guinness Mustard, Guinness Ice Cream and Guinness Stew.

I'm going to go with one of my favorite foods these days: Short Ribs!

Guinness Braised Short Ribs
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon paprika (not hot)
1/2 tablespoon curry powder (preferably Madras)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon dry mustard
4 to 4 1/4 lb beef short ribs, cut into 4-inch pieces
4 medium leeks (white and pale green parts only), chopped (2 cups)
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 medium carrots, chopped (2 cups)
3 celery ribs, chopped (1 1/2 cups)
2 Turkish bay leaves or 1 California
1/4 cup chopped garlic (5 to 6 large cloves)
1 3/4 cups beef broth (14 oz)
2 (12-oz) bottles of Guinness Stout
2 (14- to 15-oz) cans diced tomatoes

Put oven rack in lower third of oven and preheat oven to 375°F.

Stir together brown sugar, paprika, curry powder, cumin, pepper, salt, and mustard in a small bowl until combined.

Pat ribs dry and arrange in 1 layer in a shallow baking pan or a shallow dish, then generously coat all sides of ribs with spice mixture. Marinate, uncovered and chilled, 1 hour.

Wash leeks in a bowl of cold water, agitating water, then lift out leeks and drain in a colander.

Heat oil in pot over high heat until hot but not smoking and quickly brown ribs on all 3 meaty sides (but not bone side) without crowding, in batches if necessary, about 1 minute per side. Transfer meat to a large plate, then add leeks, carrots, celery, and bay leaves to pot and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, 1 minute.

Add broth, beer, and tomatoes with their juice, then add ribs with any juices and remaining spices accumulated on plate and bring liquid to a boil, uncovered. Cover pot and transfer to oven, then braise until meat is very tender, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

Skim off excess fat from surface of sauce. Discard bay leaves.

More St. Patty's Day inspired treats later!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Red Pepper Soup and Scallop Ceviche Rocket

For my sister's birthday dinner, I decided to go with a soup and salad first course.

For the soup I made a Roasted Red Pepper soup served in tall shot glasses and the salad was a scallop ceviche with arugula greens. I called the dish Red Pepper Shooter and Scallop Ceviche Rocket. I read somewhere that arugula is referred to as rocket in England and thought that sounded a lot more fun than just arugula salad. Unfortunately, I did not take a picture of this plate...but trust me, it looked great.

Red Pepper Shooter
3 red bell peppers, seeded
1 tbl. butter
1 tbl. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbl. AP flour
1 healthy pinch red pepper flakes
A few sprigs of thyme
3 1/2 cups chicken broth
Salt and Pepper

Cut the peppers open and lay them flat on a foil lined baking sheet. Put them under the broiler until the skin is blistered and charred. Put them into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap to help steam the skin off. Once the skin is loosened, peel the skin off and chop the peppers into 1 inch chunks.

Meanwhile, heat the butter and oil then add the onions to saute. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and continue about 1 minute. Add the flour to create a bit of a roux.

Add the roasted peppers, broth, and thyme. Bring to a simmer and let it do so for 20-25 minutes.

Use an immersion blender (or regular blender) to smooth out the soup. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Scallop Ceviche Rocket
3/4 lb. sea scallops, cut crosswise into 1/8 inch thick slices
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped into very small dice
1 clove garlic, minced
Juice from 8 limes, approximately 1 cup
2 tbl red onion, chopped into very small dice
1 seeded and diced tomato
Olive oil
Avocado slices

Put the scallops, lime juice, jalapeno pepper and garlic in a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least one hour. The acid in the lime juice cooks the scallops. Some people poach the scallops ahead of time, but I find that unnecessary.

Just before serving, combine the onion and tomato in a bowl. Spoon out the scallops and add them to the tomato and onion mixture.

Use some of the lime juice to make a dressing with the olive oil. Serve on the arugula and decorate with the avocado slices. Top with the dressing.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Trader Joe's Song

If you haven't yet seen this brilliant musical tribute, you may want to do so soon before any corporate honchos put the ol' kibosh on it. Here it is:

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

What goes with Gołąbki?

My sister’s birthday is this weekend and she has asked our mother to make Gołąbki – cabbage leaves stuffed with beef, onions, and rice served with a spicy tomato sauce.

I have been charged with the first course, but need some inspiration to find something that compliments the main. Any ideas???

Ideally, I’d like to do an amuse bouche and first course.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

One more for Mardi Gras - Pączki

One more posting on Mardi Gras...this time I'm going strictly commercial, though I am sure there are great recipes out there for these delectable treats.

All behold the Pączki! (pronouced ponch-key) This is one of those treats from my childhood that bring back vivid and strong memories. It is essentially a bismarck or jelly doughnut. Rich and delicious, they are traditionally filled with plum, prune or rose petal jam...these days you can find them filled with lemon, strawberry, blueberry or custard.

My memories of these are not associated with Mardi Gras, though that is what they are most closely tied to traditionally. My recollection goes back to when I was 5 or 6 on a trip to Poland. As my family waited for our relatives in Warsaw, we found a cafe and had black current juice and paczki. Delicious!

I had to post this because I saw these in the grocery store earlier this week and had a rush of nostalgia. I'm glad some company is marketing these to the general public for Mardi Gras celebrations. It is great to see a bit of my Polish heritage get some attention.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Mardi Gras Week - Beignets

After watching Top Chef last night, I am certain that everyone is clamoring for a good beignet recipe. I know I am. The producers of the show definitely got the timing right for a New Orleans finals. Lots of great Creole and Cajun dishes for us to feast our eyes on and get inspired for Mardi Gras.

Here's one that I thought looked great: Brandied Apricot Beignets with Chocolate Dipping Sauce

  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon brandy
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 10 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

  • 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 3 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons brandy
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • Vegetable oil (for frying)
  • Powdered sugar
For sauce:

Bring first 3 ingredients just to boil in medium saucepan. Remove from heat; add chocolate. Let stand 30 seconds. Whisk until smooth. do ahead Can be made 4 days ahead. Cover; chill.

For beignets:

Bring apricots, 3 tablespoons water, 3 tablespoons sugar, and brandy to boil in medium saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Steep, covered, 30 minutes. Drain; reserve apricots and syrup.

Bring 1/2 cup water, milk, butter, and salt to boil in large saucepan over high heat, stirring until butter melts. Remove from heat. Add flour; stir briskly until dough gathers into ball. Place pan over medium heat; stir constantly until film forms on pan bottom, about 2 minutes. Cool 5 minutes. Using electric mixer, beat in eggs 1 at a time. Beat in apricots. DO AHEAD: Can be made 4 hours ahead. Cover; let stand at room temperature.

Preheat oven to 200°F. Line large rimmed baking sheet with paper towels. Pour oil into large deep saucepan to depth of 1 1/2 inches. Attach deep-fry thermometer to side of pan; heat oil to 330°F to 340°F. Working in batches of 5 or 6, drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls into hot oil. Cook beignets until golden brown, adjusting heat to maintain temperature and turning after 2 or 3 minutes, about 5 minutes Total. Using slotted spoon, transfer beignets to sheet. Place in oven to keep warm.

Rewarm chocolate sauce over low heat. Mix in reserved apricot syrup.

Sift powdered sugar over beignets. Divide among plates. Serve with warm chocolate sauce.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Mardi Gras Week - Gumbo

Now that we got the essential King Cake in the bag, it is now time to look at other Creole or Cajun inspired a good gumbo. Besides being fun to say, gumbo is a delicious stew. So what's the difference between a Creole and Cajun gumbo? From what I understand about gumbos, Creole gumbos generally use a lighter (but still medium-brown) roux and include tomatoes, while Cajun gumbos are made with a darker roux and never contain tomatoes.

Cajun Style Gumbo
1 1/2 pounds small shrimp (51 to 60 count), shelled, deveined, shells reserved
1 cup clam juice (one 8-ounce bottle)
3 1/2 cups ice water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup AP flour
2 medium onions, chopped fine
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped fine
1 medium rib celery, chopped fine
6 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 bay leaves
3/4 pound smoked sausage, such as andouille or kielbasa, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley leaves
4 medium scallions , white and green parts sliced thin
Ground black pepper


Bring reserved shrimp shells and 4 1/2 cups water to boil in stockpot or large saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer 20 minutes. Strain stock and add clam juice and ice water (you should have about 2 quarts of stock); discard shells. Set stock mixture aside.

Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until it registers 200 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and stir in flour gradually with wooden spoon, working out any small lumps. Continue stirring constantly, reaching into corners of pan, until mixture has a toasty aroma and is deep reddish brown, about the color of an old copper penny or between the colors of milk chocolate and dark chocolate, about 20 minutes. (The roux will thin as it cooks; if it begins to smoke, remove from heat and stir constantly to cool slightly.)

Add onion, bell pepper, celery, garlic, thyme, salt, and cayenne; cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables soften, 8 to 10 minutes. Add 1 quart reserved stock mixture in slow, steady stream, stirring vigorously. Stir in remaining quart stock mixture. Increase heat to high; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, skim off foam on surface, add bay leaves, and simmer uncovered, skimming foam as it rises to the surface, about 30 minutes.

Stir in sausage; continue simmering to blend flavors, about 30 minutes longer. Stir in shrimp; simmer until cooked through, about 5 minutes longer. Off heat, stir in parsley and scallions, adjust seasonings to taste with salt, ground black pepper, and cayenne; serve.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Countdown to Mardi Gras

There is one week left until Mardi Gras...which means we all have one week to live it up before we give up all of our vices in the name of Lent. Yeah right...I might give up ONE vice, but certainly not the whole lot. There really is no reason to be miserable is there?

In any case, right on the heels of Salt and Pepper's Dessert Week, we're going to take a look at sinful eats and treats in celebration of Mardi Gras. Oh and if you want some beads, you know what to do!

King Cake

Serving a King's Cake during Mardi Gras celebrations is a tradition that honors the Magi who visited the Christ child on the twelfth night or Epiphany (January 6). The cake is shaped in a ring with a pecan, bean or plastic baby placed inside the dough, before baking, to represent the baby Jesus...though I believe there is a pagan tradition of a similar kind that preceded this representation. The cake is then decorated with the purple, green and gold colors of Mardi Gras, and divided among guests. Whoever finds the baby doll will be honored as King for the day and host the next King's Cake celebration.

Dough Ingredients:

4 packages active dry yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water (110-115 degrees F)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup cold milk
1 cup plain or vanilla yogurt
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 stick butter
5-6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Filling Ingredients:
1 stick butter, melted
2 cups granulated sugar
3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 dried bean, shelled pecans, or naked plastic babies

Icing Ingredients:
3 tablespoons soft butter
4 cups confectioner's sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
4-6 tablespoons milk

Combine the yeast, 1/2 of the sugar, and the lukewarm water in a very large bowl, stir well and set aside for a few minutes until the mixture swells slightly and small bubbles appear on the surface. Stir in the remaining sugar, milk, yogurt, lemon juice, vanilla and salt. Mix well. Add egg yolks and mix again.

In another bowl, work the butter into 5 cups of the flour.

Add the flour-butter mixture to the yeast mixture a cup at a time, mixing well after each cup is added. Begin to knead in the bowl, adding more flour if necessary to make a smooth, elastic dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead about 5 minutes, adding more flour if the dough is still sticky.

Shape the dough into a ball and place in a bowl which has been buttered or sprayed with a no-stick spray. Cover and let stand in a warm place until dough doubles in size.

Punch dough down and divide in half. Roll each half on a lightly floured surface into a rectangle about 8 x 14 inches. Brush each rectangle with 1/2 stick of melted butter. Combine the sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle 1/2 of the mixture over each rectangle. Roll up from the wide end, as you would a jelly roll, inserting one of the dried beans, pecans, or naked babies along the way. Press the ends of the dough together and stretch the roll into an oval about 14 inches long. Place on a greased/sprayed cookie sheet and allow to rise in a warm place for about 45 minutes.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 35-45 minutes until the cakes are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped with the fingers. Remove from the oven and cool for 30 minutes.

Beat the butter until softened. Add confectioner's sugar and vanilla and continue to beat, gradually adding milk until a glaze consistency is achieved. Use half of the icing on each cake.

Spread the icing evenly over each cake and decorate immediately with granulated sugar that has been rendered purple, green and gold with food coloring, making alternating bands of color.

Other decorating options:
Divide the icing into three portions and use food coloring to make purple, green and gold icing. Spread in alternating bands along the length of the cakes.

Use purple, green and gold gumdrops, jelly beans, or other candy to decorate the white icing.

Friday, February 13, 2009

OM NOMs 1.4 - Dessert Week

It should come as no surprise that this week's OM NOM Nominations are all desserts. We've been loving looking at all sorts of delicious desserts that we are considering extending Dessert Week into Dessert Month. But that just may be gilding the lily, as my grandmother used to say.

First up is 5 Star Foodie who attended a glorious celebration of chocolate (Chocolate Festival) and took some amazing photos.

My Gourmet Love Affair posted these "most fudgey, rich, chocolately, peanut-buttery brownies on the face of the planet". Just looking at them, I might have to agree...Smorgasmic Fudge Brownies.

In my opinion, you can't have a list of chocolate desserts without at least one molten chocolate cake. What's Gaby Cooking offered up this recipe for a valentine's day special: Molten Chocolate Lave Cakes.

Anyone up for some cheesecake? An Edible Symphony shared this delicious looking Luxe Red Velvet Cheesecake.

This isn't fair...why can't we live near all these cooks making these beautiful desserts???

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Dessert Week - pastry cream

Today's dessert: PASTRY CREAM!
It is a rich custard...basically a vanilla pudding, and is the essential component for many classic French desserts including eclairs and other puff pastries, Napoleons, fruit tarts, etc.

Cook's note: The pastry cream can be made a day or two in advance, but do not fill your tart shells until just before serving. Once filled, the tart can be topped with fruit, glazed, and served within half an hour or so.

2 cups half and half
1/2 cup sugar
pinch of salt
5 large egg yolks (with the cordlike strands of egg white protein removed)
3 T. cornstarch
4 T. unsalted butter
1 1/2 t. vanilla extract

Heat half-and-half, 6 tablespoons sugar, and salt in medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat until simmering, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar.

Meanwhile, whisk egg yolks in medium bowl until thoroughly combined. Whisk in remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and whisk until sugar has begun to dissolve and mixture is creamy, about 15 seconds. Whisk in cornstarch until combined and mixture is pale yellow and thick, about 30 seconds.

When half-and-half mixture reaches full simmer, gradually whisk simmering half-and-half into yolk mixture to temper. Return mixture to saucepan, scraping bowl with rubber spatula; return to simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly, until 3 or 4 bubbles burst on surface and mixture is thickened and glossy, about 30 seconds. Off heat, whisk in butter and vanilla. Transfer mixture to medium bowl, press plastic wrap directly on surface, and refrigerate until cold and set, at least 3 hours or up to 48 hours.

We used the pastry cream to fill individual tart shells like the one pictured for grandma and grandpa's anniversary party last year. Topped with some fresh fruit, these little tarts were a big hit!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Dessert Week - chocolate cups

Homemade chocolate cups

Ingredients: 1 1/2 pounds of chocolate (It doesn't matter if it is white, dark, or milk...use whatever you like.)

You will also need some small balloons for this particular method.

In double boiler over hot water, melt 3/4 pound of chocolate. Cool about 5 minutes. Inflate balloons to 4-inch diameter; knot. Holding balloons by knot, dip into chocolate, tipping to cover balloon halfway up with chocolate. Place balloon, knotted side up, on wax paper-lined baking sheet, holding balloon in place until it starts to set. Repeat with remaining balloons to make 8 cups. Place in freezer 5 minutes. Melt remaining 3/4 pound chocolate and repeat dipping procedure; place in freezer 10 minutes. Snip hole in each balloon to deflate; carefully peel away from chocolate. Refrigerate until needed. Use the same day.

(Source: Ghiradelli web site)

Fill the cups with mousse, pudding, fruit, ice cream, or anything you desire. We like a good chocolate mousse topped with raspberries.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Dessert Week - bread pudding

With Valentine's Day coming up, it is only fitting that we highlight some of our favorite desserts this week. This one is an incredibly rich bread pudding with just a touch of bourbon to give it some kick.

One may notice that we love using booze in our recipes. In fact, several years ago we came up with the concept of a TV show called "Cooking with Booze" or "Cooking with Spirit" or something along those lines. But alas, a web site and book was created by a couple of Canadian guys called Cooking with Booze, so I guess there goes that idea. But that will never stop us from actually cooking with booze! So there!

Without further ado...Rich Bread Pudding with raisins

Cinnamon Sugar
2 T. sugar
1/2 t. cinnamon

Bread pudding
1/3 cup bourbon
3/4 cup raisins
4 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 cup whole milk
2 1/2 cup heavy cream
1 T. vanilla extract
1/4 t. ground nutmeg
1/4 t. salt
12 ounces white bread (about a half a loaf) cut into 1 1/2 inch squares
1 cup walnuts (completely optional...I do not care for walnuts so I omit them)
1 1/2 melted butter (unsalted)

For the Cinnamon Sugar: Mix sugar and cinnamon in small bowl; set aside.

For the Pudding: Soak raisins in bourbon until moistened and plumped, 20 to 25 minutes.

Adjust oven rack to lower middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Butter 13-by-9-inch baking dish.

Whisk eggs, yolk, and sugar in a large bowl to blend well. Whisk in milk, cream, vanilla extract, nutmeg, and salt. Stir in 6 cups prepared bread; mix thoroughly to moisten. Let stand 20 minutes.

Stir plumped raisins, any remaining bourbon, and walnuts (if using) into soaked bread mixture. Pour mixture into prepared baking dish. Scatter remaining 2 cups bread pieces on top, pushing down gently to partially submerge. Brush exposed bread with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake until pudding is deep golden brown, is beginning to rise up sides of baking dish, and jiggles very slightly at the center when shaken, about 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool until set but still warm, about 45 minutes.

A nice sauce to go on top is this orange sauce...
1 cup orange juice
2 t. orange zest
1/2 cup sugar
1 T. cornstarch

Combine these ingredients in a saucepan and cook until thickened and bubbly. Add a dash of bourbon if you want to stay consistent with the booze theme.

And adding a dollop of whipping cream on top doesn't hurt either.

Friday, February 6, 2009

OM NOMs 1.3

In this week's OM NOM Nominations, we highlight three recipes with the other white meat: pork!

The first one goes to For the Love of Cooking and the scrumptious looking Shredded Pork Taquitos. Here they use up some leftover pork roast...which everyone always is looking for ways to spruce up their leftovers. And there are cilantro and lime sour cream, guacamole, and salsa recipes to complete the dish.

The second nomination of the week goes to Sea Salt with Food and the delectable Braised Pork Belly recipe. Despite sharing their dislike for the fat part of the pork belly, I'm giving the post a nod for what looks to be an excellent pork experience. How can you not like the fat??? MMM...delicious pork fat...droooool.......

And finally, I had to nominate this one in the name of the bacon lovers of the world. SoCal Pastry Chef posted a recipe for Pork Candy. Inspired by an Emeril show, she shows how easy it is to take something that is good and make it better.