Fleur de Lis

Fleur de Lis

Follow by Email

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Caprese Salad

It's so hot.  And humid.  And so hot.  We're in the midst of a heat wave here that just won't stop.  Too hot to cook and almost too hot to eat.  Sweet Harold's tomatoes are spot on perfect right now and Lolly's basil continues to thrive in the heat.  It's one of the few things that can.  So we decided it was the perfect time for a caprese salad.  Slice those gorgeous Alabama tomatoes, layer them with yummy mozzarella and those picked-2-minutes-ago basil leaves.  Drizzle with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Voila!  Supper's on the table.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Gilroy Garlic Festival

The Gilroy Garlic Festival is held each year in Gilroy, CA the last full weekend in July.  We love garlic in all its various forms.  There are few aromas better than an oven full of garlic roasting to nice ooey, gooey goodness just waiting to be spread on hot bread or mixed into mashed potatoes or vegetables.

Let's start with some nice roasted garlic.

Whole garlic bulbs
Dried thyme or oregano
Olive oil
Preheat oven to 350°F.  Peel loose, papery skins off garlic bulbs.  Slice top of each head (pointy end) so that the flesh is exposed.  Arrange in a baking dish or garlic baker and drizzle with oil.  Sprinkle with herbs.  Cover with foil or baker lid and bake for about 45 minutes until the garlic is soft and golden.  Cool before serving.  Squeeze soft garlic out of skins and spread on meat or French bread.

Now on to Ina Garten's Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic.  Of course, I break rules and made mine with 42 cloves of garlic.

3 whole heads garlic, about 40 cloves
2 (3 1/2-pound) chickens, cut into eighths
  (I used breasts and thighs this time)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons good olive oil
3 tablespoons Cognac, divided
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons heavy cream

Separate the cloves of garlic and drop them into a pot of boiling water for 60 seconds. Drain the garlic and peel. Set aside.

Dry the chicken with paper towels. Season liberally with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat the butter and oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. In batches, saute the chicken in the fat, skin side down first, until nicely browned, about 3 to 5 minutes on each side. Turn with tongs or a spatula; you don't want to pierce the skin with a fork. If the fat is burning, turn the heat down to medium. When a batch is done, transfer it to a plate and continue to saute all the chicken in batches.

Remove the last chicken to the plate and add all of the garlic to the pot.  Lower the heat and saute for 5 to 10 minutes, turning often, until evenly browned.  Add 2 tablespoons of the Cognac and the wine, return to a boil, and scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.

Return the chicken to the pot with the juices and sprinkle with the thyme leaves. Cover and simmer over the lowest heat for about 30 minutes, until all the chicken is done.

Remove the chicken to a platter and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm.  In a small bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup of the sauce and the flour and then whisk it back into the sauce in the pot.  Raise the heat, add the remaining tablespoon of Cognac and the cream, and boil for 3 minutes.  Add salt and pepper, to taste; it should be very flavorful because chicken tends to be bland.  Pour the sauce and the garlic over the chicken and serve hot.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Chicken Cordon Bleu

Tyler Florence provided this recipe on Food Network's Website. I've always wanted to try to make this dish and was for some reason extremely intimidated by all the steps. Trust me, if I can make this, you can make this. 

4 chicken breasts, skinless and boneless
4 thin slices of prosciutto or smoked ham
1/2 pound Gruyere or Swiss Cheese, grated
1/4 cup all purpose flour
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup panko bread crumbs
4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely minced
2 T. unsalted butter, melted
2 eggs
extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lay the chicken between two pieces of plastic wrap. Using the flat side of a meat mallet, gently pound the chicken to 1/4 inch thickness. Remove the top sheet of plastic and lay a slice of prosciutto neatly over the top to cover the breast and sprinkle a quarter of the cheese over the prosciutto. Tuck in the sides of the breasts and roll up tight like a jellyroll inside the plastic wrap. Squeeze the log gently to seal and twist both ends tight to form a nice log. Repeat with remaining chicken.

Season the flour with salt and pepper. Mix the bread crumbs with thyme, garlic and kosher salt, pepper and melted butter. The butter will help the crust brown. Beat together the eggs and season so the flour, the eggs and the crumbs are all seasoned.

Remove the plastic wrap. Lightly dust the chicken with flour, dip in the egg mixture and gently coat in the bread crumbs. Lightly coat a baking pan with olive oil and carefully transfer the roulades onto it. 

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until browned and cooked throughout. Chicken needs to reach 180 degrees as an internal temperature. I cooked my chicken for about 35 minutes.

Zucchini Vichyssoise

This is another favorite from Ina Garten's Barefoot in Paris Cookbook.  I have never cooked a recipe of hers that was not spot on perfect.  This one is no exception.

1 T. unsalted butter
1 T. olive oil
5 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (4 - 8 leeks)
4 cups chopped unpeeled white boiling potatoes (8 small)
3 cups chopped zucchini (2 zucchini)
1 1/2 quarts chicken stock
1 t. kosher salt
1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper
2 T. heavy cream
fresh chives for garnish

Heat the butter and oil in a large stockpot, add the leeks and saute over medium-low heat for 5 minutes.  Add the potatoes, zucchini, chicken stock, salt and pepper; bring to a boil.  Then lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

Cool for a few minutes and then process through a food mill or with a hand blender until mixture is smooth.  Add the cream and season to taste.

Serve either cold or hot, garnished with the chopped fresh chives.

Bastille Day 2010

Here's a picture from last week's Bastille Day Celebration table.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Culinary Quote of the Week

Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled as good as bacon. ~ Doug Larson

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Chicken Tagine with Preserved Lemons and Olives

Wikipedia will help with the Tagine Lesson for today.  What is a tagine?  Here's more than you probably ever wanted to know about tagines.

Now back to the program.  I saw this Le Creuset version and immediately fell in love.  Plus, it's just FUN to use.  Google tagines or go to Ebay and check out the dozens of styles and colors.

Tajine or tagine (Berber: taǧin) is a type of dish found in the North African cuisines of Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, and Libya, which is named after the special pot in which it is cooked.  A similar dish, known as Tavvas, is found in the cuisine of Cyprus.  The traditional tagine pot is formed entirely of a heavy clay, which is sometimes painted or glazed.  It consists of two parts: a base unit that is flat and circular with low sides, and a large cone or dome-shaped cover that rests inside the base during cooking.  The cover is so designed to promote the return of all condensation to the bottom.  With the cover removed, the base can be taken to the table for serving.

Recently, European manufacturers have created tagines with heavy cast-iron bottoms that can be heated on a cooking stove to a high temperature. This permits the browning of meat and vegetables before cooking.

1 chicken, about 3 lbs.
2 T. tagine spices (mixture of salt, paprika, cumin, cinnamon, ginger)
2 bay leaves
4 T. extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, sliced
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 small yellow onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus more for garnish
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
6 preserved lemon wedges, rinsed & pulp removed, cut into strips 1 inch long
1 cup green or black olives
Cooked couscous or basmati rice for serving

Cut the chicken into serving pieces: 2 legs, 2 thighs and 2 wings; cut each half-breast in half.  Set aside. In a small sauté pan over medium heat, toast the spices, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 3 minutes.  Transfer to a large bowl.  Add the bay leaves, 2 Tbs. of the olive oil, the garlic, salt and pepper and whisk to combine.  Add the chicken and stir to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3 hours.  Remove the chicken from the marinade and reserve the marinade.

In a tagine or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, warm the remaining 2 T. oil until almost smoking. Working in batches, brown the chicken on all sides, 5 to 7 minutes total.  Transfer to a plate.

Add the onions to the tagine and cook, stirring, until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. 

Reduce the heat to medium and add the reserved marinade, the 1/2 cup parsley, cilantro, lemon juice, preserved lemon and olives.

Now add in the chicken.....

Cover the tagine and cook until the chicken is tender and falling off the bone, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.  Discard the bay leaves.  Garnish with parsley and serve the chicken directly from the tagine.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Moroccan Preserved Lemons

Preserved lemons are used in many Middle Eastern dishes. You'll be shocked if you price these little babies at a specialty food store. There's no need to buy these because they are so simple to make. The rinds become very soft and when you cook them in dishes, they simply melt away leaving a delightful little something extra in each bite.

Now is the perfect time to buy lemons while they're priced low and are extra juicy. Plus, they're just super fun to make.

Use the smallest lemons you can find. Wash 6 - 8 lemons and cut into wedges. Roll each wedge in kosher salt until they are very thickly covered. Regular table salt is a no-no because it can leave a very chemical-like taste. Use a jar that can be sealed airtight. Wash the jar with very hot, soapy water and rinse it thoroughly. Pack the lemon wedges in tightly and squeeze enough fresh lemon juice to cover the lemons.

Stir them once every day for a week. When they're ready to be used for this dish, rinse each wedge and remove the pulp and slice into thin strips. The remaining wedges are good in the fridge for months.  Tomorrow's recipe will use some of the preserved lemons.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Shrimp Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes

These little bites of goodness are just perfect for summertime snacking, a ladies luncheon or as a side item at a family and friends cookout.They're fast and easy to assemble and you'll be snacking before you know it!  You'll probably want to make extra. 

2 pints cherry tomatoes
1/2 pound cooked shrimp - peeled and deveined
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
1 teaspoon lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Cut the top off each cherry tomato, and scoop out the pulp. Place the tomatoes upside down on paper towels to drain.

In a food processor, mix the shrimp, cream cheese, mayonnaise, Parmesan cheese, horseradish, and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Blend until smooth.

With a pastry bag, pipe the shrimp mixture into the cherry tomatoes. Garnish with parsley, and refrigerate until serving.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Strawberry Spinach Salad

I suppose nearly everyone has a recipe for Strawberry/Spinach salad.  This salad is cool and light and perfect for summertime when the strawberries are at their freshest.  I added some slivered almonds, just because I love almonds!

½ cup white sugar
2 T. sesame seeds
½ t. sesame oil
1 T. poppy seeds
1 ½ t. dried minced onion
¼ t. paprika
½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup balsamic vinegar
2 bunches fresh spinach - chopped, washed and dried
1 pint strawberries, washed and halved
1/4 cup slivered almonds

Whisk together the sugar, sesame seeds, sesame oil, poppy seeds, dried onion, paprika, oil and vinegar.  Refrigerate until chilled.  In a salad bowl, combine the spinach and strawberries.  Top with slivered almonds.  Drizzle with dressing, toss lightly and serve.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Kung Pao Chicken

Spicy, numbing, and no-holds barred, this is how kung pao chicken is meant to be. Take a trip to the local International Market for your ingredients. It's always fun to meander through the Market and check out all the exotic things stacked on the shelves.

If you're afraid of heat....you may need to just fix a PB and J or a grilled cheese instead of this dish. It'll wake you up, that's for sure.

1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat, and cut into 1/2 to 3/4-inch pieces
2 tablespoons soy sauce, divided
2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine, divided (or dry sherry, if unavailable)
1 tablepoon cornstarch, divided
1/3 cup peanut oil
1/4 cup Sichuan peppercorns toasted in hot skillet for 30 seconds until fragrant, divided
3 scallions, whites finely minced, and greens finely sliced, reserved separately
1/2 cup fried fresh peanuts or roasted unsalted peanuts
2 cloves minced garlic (about 4 teaspoons)
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon Chinese black vinegar (or distilled white vinegar if unavailable)
1 tablespoon Sichuan fermented chili-bean paste (or generic Asian chili-garlic sauce if unavailable)
2 teaspoons sugar
12 hot Chinese dry chili peppers, seeded
2 small leeks, white and light green parts only, cut into 1/4-inch slices (about 1/2 cup total)
Combine chicken, 2 teaspoons soy sauce, 2 teaspoons Shaoxing wine, and 1 teaspoon cornstarch in medium bowl and mix thoroughly. Allow to marinate in fridge for at least 30 minutes, and up to two hours.

Grind half of Sichuan peppercorns in mortar and pestle. Combine with scallion greens and reserve. Combine scallion whites, garlic, and ginger in small bowl. Combine remaining soy sauce, remaining Shaoxing wine, remaining corn starch, black vinegar, chili-bean paste, and sugar in small bowl and mix until cornstarch is fully dissolved.

Set fine-meshed strainer over small heat-proof bowl. Heat peanut oil in wok over high heat until shimmering. Add remaining Sichuan peppercorns and dried chiles and cook until fragrant, about fifteen seconds. Drain in strainer. Pick out chiles and reserve. Discard peppercorns.

Return wok to high heat until smoking. Add 1/4 of oil and immediately add half of marinated chicken. Spread in even layer with spatula. Cook without moving for 1 minute, then cook, stirring and tossing constantly until barely cooked through, about 1 minute longer. Transfer to a medium metal bowl. Wipe out wok with paper towel, add another 1/4 of oil, and repeat with remaining chicken. 

Wipe out wok with paper towel, add another 1/4 of the oil, and cook leeks until charred in spots but still slightly crisp, about 1 minute. 

Add peanuts, reserved chiles, reserved chicken, and remaining oil to wok and push to side to make space in the center of the wok. Add garlic/ginger mixture and cook, stirring mixture constantly until aromatic, about 15 seconds. Toss entire contents of wok together and add sauce. Cook, stirring and tossing constantly until chicken is coated in glossy layer of sauce. 

Stir in scallion greens and ground Sichuan pepper. Transfer to serving plate and serve immediately with steamed white rice.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Bow Tie Pasta Salad with Zucchini and Prosciutto

I adore pasta salads.  I found this recipe in a magazine which has long since been forgotten.  I do remember we were waiting for new tires to be put on the car.....but I digress.  You have some extra zucchini looking at you accusingly because you've left it lying in the crisper drawer all alone?  Here's the solution!

1 T. butter
¼ cup chopped onion
5 cups matchstick cut zucchini (about 1 pound)
1/3 cup dry white wine
¼ cup sliced green onions
¼ cup sour cream
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 t. kosher salt
½ t. grated lemon zest
1 t. fresh lemon juice
½ t. finely ground black pepper
1 cup diced Prosciutto
7 cups cooked bow tie pasta (about 1 pound uncooked)

Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add onion, sauté 2 minutes or until brown. Add zucchini, sauté 2 minutes. Remove zucchini mixture from pan. Add wine to pan, cook until reduced to 1 T. (about 1 minute) scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Combine wine reduction, sliced green onions and next 7 ingredients in a large bowl. Add zucchini and pasta, toss to coat.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Bastille Day 2009

Here's a brief description of Bastille Day just in case you've never heard of it and have no idea what the big deal is:  The Bastille was a prison in France that the kings and queens often used to lock up the people that did not agree with their decisions. To many, it was a symbol of all the bad things done by the kings and queens. So, on July 14, 1789, a large number of French citizens gathered together and stormed the Bastille.  Yes, I come from a long line of rabble-rousers...it's in my genetic makup.

Just as the people in the United States celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence as the beginning of the American Revolution, so the people in France celebrate the storming of the Bastille as the beginning of the French Revolution. Both Revolutions brought great changes. Kings and queens no longer rule. The people rule themselves and make their own decisions.

Due to Bastille Day being in the middle of the week this year, and I have this pesky job to be present at today...we'll celebrate our Bastille Day this weekend.  But for old times sake, here's a few pictures from Bastille Days we've had fun at in the past.


Braciole is a thin slice of steak, wrapped around a cheese stuffing and cooked in a thick tomato sauce.  Stop a moment and realize this recipe has STEAK, ITALIAN SAUSAGE, PORK CHOPS PLUS MEATBALLS!  Meat Lovers Rejoice!

This is an all day project (or at least it was for me) so allow yourself time. 

First, prepare sauce and meatball recipe (recipe following this one).  For this dish, make the meatballs approximately 1 inch. 

While the sauce and meatballs are simmering, prepare the following:

1 lb. round steak or London Broil
½ cup bread crumbs
¼ - ½ cup fresh parsley, chopped fine
¼ cup grated Parmesan Cheese
3 cloves garlic, minced
Coarse Black Pepper and Salt

Ask the butcher to slice the steak up into ¼” thin pieces.  Take the steak slices and place them between two pieces of wax paper.  Pound with a mallet until the pieces are approximately 7" x 3" and relatively rectangular in shape.  Trim the pieces as necessary to have them rectangular.

Mix the bread crumbs, parsley, parmesan cheese and minced garlic in a bowl until thoroughly combined.  Divide the mixture evenly between the pieces of meat.  Sprinkle on salt and coarse black pepper.  Press mixture lightly into steak.

Roll up the meat tightly and tie with cooking string.  You will need about three pieces of string for each piece.  Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a non-stick skillet. Sear the rolls until golden brown on all sides.  Add them to the sauce.

While the braciole is simmering with the meatballs, prepare the pork chops as follows:

Take four thinly sliced pork chops, sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper and sear in a skillet for about 2 to 3 minutes on each side.  Add the chops to the sauce and stir gently.  Let everything simmer for a few hours, stirring occasionally.  If you'd like, you can also add several links of sweet Italian sausage at this point.

When ready to serve, carefully remove the braciole and cut string. Cook spaghetti and when al dente, drain and put in large serving bowl.  Ladle sauce, meatballs, braciole, sausage and pork chops onto pasta and serve. 

Eat and then sleep for about 14 -16 hours. 

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Ingredients for Meatballs:
1 pound lean ground beef
1 pound Italian sausage
1 pound ground veal
½ cup Italian style bread crumbs
4 - 5 cloves garlic minced
2 eggs - lightly beaten
1 small yellow onion minced
4 ½ Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
4 ½ Tablespoons grated Romano cheese
3 - 4 Tablespoons minced fresh parsley
3 - 4 Tablespoons minced fresh basil
Salt and pepper - to taste
Olive oil

Combine all ingredients and loosely shape into 1 ½ inch balls.  Heat olive oil in large skillet and brown in 3 or 4 batches until all are browned.  Add to sauce and simmer all afternoon.

Note: These can be made ahead and frozen in resealable plastic bags, then added to sauce and heated.

Ingredients for Sauce:
2 28 oz. cans crushed tomatoes
1 10 oz. can tomato puree
1 14.5 oz. can petite-diced tomatoes
1 6 oz. tomato paste seasoned with basil, garlic and oregano
Fennel seeds

Heat all the canned tomatoes together until boiling.  Add crushed fennel seeds and oregano and basil to taste.  Add meatballs and turn heat to low and let simmer for several hours.  Adjust seasonings and add additional salt/pepper if needed.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Italian Sausage Burgers with Garlicky Spinach and Italian Style Fries

I found these neat little burger baskets with liners a few weeks ago.  I knew they'd be perfect for some sort of sliders and Food and Wine on Facebook provided the perfect recipe.

2 T. extra virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
10 oz. baby spinach
2 garlic cloves, minched
1 t. oyster sauce (or anchovy paste)
1 pound sweet or hot Italian Sausage (or a combination of both) casings removed
4 slices of provolone cheese
4 round ciabatta rolls, split and toasted

In a large skillet, heat olive oil and add spinach.  Stir spinach just until wilted, about 2 minutes.  Add garlic and oyster sauce and cook additional minute.  Salt to taste and taste carefully because oyster sauce is very salty.

Remove spinach from skillet and set aside.  Wipe out skillet with a paper towel.  Using slightly moistened hands, form the sausage into four 4-inch patties, about 3/4 inch thick.  Brush the burgers with olive oil and cook (turning once) until internal temperature reaches 170 degrees.  Top with cheese and remove from skillet. 

Spread a thin layer of mayonnaise on the bottom of the roll and top with burger and spinach.  Serve hot.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Happy 555th Birthday Leonardo!

There's been a few requests to actually see proof of this birthday party.  I hope somewhere Leo was looking down and appreciated that we celebrated for him!


2 - 3 medium ripe tomatoes
3 T. extra virgin olive oil
3 fresh basil leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 1/2 inch slices Italian bread
1 garlic clove

Cut the tomatoes in half through the stem end. Cut away the cores.  Squeeze out the seeds and juice.  Chop the tomatoes into 1/2 inch pieces.  In a medium bowl, toss the tomatoes with the oil and salt and pepper to taste.  Stack basil leaves and cut them crosswise into thin ribbons.  Add the basil to the tomatoes and stir well.

Turn broiler on high.  Place rack about 5 inches away from rack.  Toast the bread on one side until golden brown, about 2 minutes.  Turn the bread and toast the other side, about 2 minutes.  Rub it on one side with the garlic clove.  Pile on tomatoes & serve immediately.

Roman Egg Drop Soup

About 2 quarts vegetable or chicken broth
4 eggs
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano
1 tablespoon very finely minced parsley (optional)
A pinch of freshly ground nutmeg (optional)

In a bowl, combine the eggs, grated cheese, and, if you're using them, nutmeg and parsley.  Add a ladle of cold broth and beat the mixture lightly with a fork or whisk.

Bring the remainder of the broth to a boil.  Add the egg mixture in one fell swoop, stirring vigorously with a whisk or fork so as to break up the egg, which will form fine light flakes, minute rags (straccetti, in Italian) that give the soup its name.  Simmer for another 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly, and serve, with a little more grated Parmigiano on the side.

Cannellini Bean Salad

2 T. extra virgin olive oil
2 T. fresh lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups warmed cannellini beans
1 small yellow bell pepper, diced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
2 green onions, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 bunch arugula, trimmed

In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, lemon juice and salt & pepper to taste.  Drain the beans and add them to the dressing.  Stir well.  Let stand 30 minutes.  Add the pepper, tomatoes and onions and toss together.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Arrange the arugula on a platter and top with the salad.  Serve immediately.

Pasta Primavera

4 T unsalted butter
1/4 cup chopped shallots
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup broccoli florets, cut into bite-sized pieces
4 asparagus, trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup fresh or frozen green peas
1 cup heavy cream
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound fresh fettuccine
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano - reggiano
10 basil leaves, stacked and cut into thin ribbons

In a skillet, large enough to hold the fettuccine, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the shallots and carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, five minutes or until softened.

Bring at least 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot.  Add salt to taste.  Add the broccoli and asparagus and cook for one minute.  With a slotted spoon, scoop out the vegetables and drain them well, leaving the water boiling in the pot.

Put the broccoli and asparagus in the skillet along with the peas and cream.  Bring to a simmer.  Season to taste with S & P.  Remove from heat.  Put the fettuccine into the boiling water and cook, stirring frequently until the pasta is al dente.  Drain the fettuccine and add it to the skillet.  Add the cheese and toss well.  Sprinkle with the basil and serve immediately.

Mixed Fruit with White Wine and Mint

Chop and combine the cantaloupe, strawberries, grapes, and mint in a large bowl.  Pour the warm wine mixture over; toss to coat.  Cover and refrigerate until cold, stirring occasionally, at least 2 hours.  When ready to serve, sprinkle with mint.

As a variation, substitute water for wine and peaches for cantaloupe in the above recipe. When ready to serve, spoon fruit into champagne flute and slowly pour in pink champagne.  Garnish with mint.

Scrumptiously Delicious Apple Cake with Yogurt Glaze

This dessert made an appearance at a St. Patrick's Day party a few years ago. While looking through some photos, I came across it and thought I'd share.  This cake would be perfect anytime.

3 egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 t. vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 t. cinnamon
1 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
4 cups sliced, cored, peeled tart apples (McIntosh or Crispin)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Beat egg whites until slightly foamy; add sugar, applesauce and vanilla.  Combine flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt in separate bowl; add to applesauce mixture.  Spread apples in 13 x 9 pan sprayed with cooking spray.  Spread batter over apples.  Bake 35 - 40 minutes or until wooden toothpick inserted into center comes out clean; cool on wire rack.  Top with yogurt glaze.

Yogurt Glaze: Combine 1 1/2 cups plain or vanilla non-fat yogurt, 3 T. brown sugar and 1 t. vanilla.  Stir together until smooth.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Nilla Wafer Banana Pudding

One of my favorite all time desserts.  However I am definitely in the "eat it while it's still warm" camp.  There is something so comforting and yummy about an actual homemade pudding with real meringue.  Please, please, please don't put Cool Whip on a banana pudding.  That's just wrong.  On many levels.  You can't improve upon perfection and here direct from the Nilla Wafer website is their recipe.  Thank you Mr. Nabisco or whomever in your test kitchens years ago who developed this recipe.  You have my undying gratitude!

3/4 cup sugar, divided
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
Dash salt
3 eggs, separated
2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
45 NILLA Wafers, divided
5 ripe bananas, sliced (about 3 1/2 cups), divided
Additional NILLA Wafers and banana slices, for garnish

Mix 1/2 cup sugar, flour and salt in top of double boiler.  Blend in 3 egg yolks and milk.  Cook, uncovered, over boiling water, stirring constantly for 10 to 12 minutes or until thickened.  Remove from heat; stir in vanilla.

Reserve 10 wafers for garnish.  Spread small amount of custard on bottom of 1 1/2-quart casserole; cover with a layer of wafers and a layer of sliced bananas.  Pour about 1/3 of custard over bananas.  Continue to layer wafers, bananas and custard to make a total of 3 layers of each, ending with custard.

Beat egg whites until soft peaks form; gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until stiff but not dry.  Spoon on top of pudding, spreading evenly to cover entire surface and sealing well to edges.

Bake at 350°F in top half of oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until browned.  Cool slightly or refrigerate.  Garnish with additional wafers and banana slices just before serving.

Bronzed Pork Chops with Chipotle Cream

Another delicious recipe from my friend in New Orleans.  You can never go wrong with any of his recipes.  Cook this one and impress your mother in law big time!

¼ lb. plus 2 T. unsalted butter
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tsp. chipotles in adobo sauce, minced
3 tsp. Creole seasoning
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup of sliced mushrooms (crimini preferred)
2 cups heavy cream
¼ tsp. salt
½ tsp. brown sugar
6 pork chops, 1"-1 ½" thick
2 T. Creole seasoning
2 T. canola oil

Make the sauce:
Melt the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat.  When the butter starts to sizzle, add the onions. Stir frequently until the onions start to brown on the edges.  Add the chipotles and 1 teaspoon of Creole seasoning.  Continue to cook, stirring constantly for 2 - 3 more minutes.  Add the stock and scrape the skillet to loosen any browned crust.  Remove from heat and empty contents of skillet to a bowl.

Return skillet to heat and add one tablespoon of butter. When butter sizzles, add mushrooms and remaining Creole seasoning.  Sauté until mushrooms begin to darken and brown at the edges.  Return onions and chipotles to the skillet and lower the heat to medium.  Whisk in cream, salt, and sugar and simmer for 5 minutes.  Reduce heat to low and whisk in remaining butter.  Keep warm while you prepare the chops.

Preheat oven to 500º (550º if your oven allows).  Preheat a large cast iron skillet on high heat.  Season the pork chops and pat the seasonings in with your hands.  Add the oil to the skillet, swirl, and place three of the chops in the skillet leaving space between them. Sauté chops for 2 minutes and flip.  After 2 more minutes, transfer the chops to the oven for 4 - 5 more minutes.  Repeat for the remaining chops.  Serve one chop per person with a ladle of sauce on top.   If you cook a nice pot of cheese grits to go with these chops, you'll be glad you did.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


I just thought this picture of my basil plants deserved their own post.  Either today or tomorrow, many of these leaves will transform themselves into a nice bowl of pesto!

Spicy Bloody Marias and Fiesta Frittata

I love those Saturday mornings when we don't have to be anywhere or do anything at a certain time.  Life is too hectic during the week to enjoy having a fun breakfast together.  This morning I decided that we'd try a South of the Border Breakfast.

Let's start with our beverage of choice - Spicy Bloody Marias. 

36 oz. V-8
2 T. Worchestershire Sauce
1 t. Celery Salt
2. t. Horseradish
Juice from 1/2 lime
1 T. Tabasco Sauce
Freshly Ground Black Pepper

In a large pitcher, pour in the V-8.  Stir in the next six ingredients.  Pour into individual glasses and add however much tequila makes you happy.  For a Bloody Mary, use Vodka instead.  We love spicy and hot, but you can use the outline of ingredients above and adjust amounts to your taste.

Garnish your glasses with spicy peppers, pickled okra, celery tops or whatever fun things you like!

Now on to the frittata:

2 T. butter
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeno, diced (remember:  less seeds = less heat)
4 oz. ham, chopped
freshly ground black pepper
1 t. smoked paprika
1 t. chili powder
1 1/2 cup grated potatoes (use largest hole on box grater)
3 oz. queso blanco, crumbled
6 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup water

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a 10 inch non-stick skillet, melt butter and add onions and peppers and cook for 5 minutes over medium-high heat until veggies are softened.  Add ham, s & p, and spices and saute for a few more minutes.  Add potatoes and stir to blend together well with the ham and veggies.  Reduce heat to medium and let potatoes soften and cook for about 3 minutes.  Add the crumbled cheese on top and do not stir.

Next add the beaten eggs/water mixture.  Do not stir.

Place in oven and cook for 8 - 10 minutes or until eggs are cooked through and the top is nice and browned.

Next, carefully slip a spatula around the edges and slide out of the skillet onto a cutting surface.

Cut into slices and serve!