Thursday, December 31, 2009

Your Potatoes

I asked Paula from to be my guest for this blog post.  Paula's husband loves to cook and she has agreed to post one of his favorite recipes. The recipe is great for entertaining a crowd or for an evening with family.

And stir some more
"Your Potatoes" is a code word in our family for " Aligot Gratin with Horseradish Cream". The dish requires all the steps above, and when it was last prepared on Christmas Day it also involved taking photos of a camera-shy cook and a not-so-shy teenaged fan.
My husband promised to "keep it simple" and to keep the workload to a minimum so that is how "your potatoes" worked their way onto the menu. Although that alone decimated the "simple idea",  the family unanimously agreed that it was worth the laborious preparation steps. Even our niece who is the dish's biggest fan, took up the ricer (That's where the "recruit" part of the task list above came in!)

The camera-shy hard at work husband grating the cheese for the gratin

The fruits of the family's labors...May not be a beauty but it tastes awesome!
Note: We may have made it less than beautiful by getting caught up in frenzied Christmas Day chatter and forgetting to rotate it to "ensure even browning"

Aligot Gratin with Horseradish Cream
Adjusted to serve  9
Recipe from: Gourmet 
3lbs. (9 medium) Yukon gold potatoes
6 garlic cloves
1-1/2 teaspoon salt
4-1/2 tablespoons softened unsalted butter
1 1/8 cups whole milk
7 1/2 cups (1- 1/8 lbs) coarsley grated Cantal or Gruyere cheese
3/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup chilled heavy cream
2 tablespoons bottled drained horseradish

1. Simmer potatoes in salted water until very tender (about 40 minutes). Drain potatoes. Let the potatoes cool and then force through a ricer into a clean saucepan.
2. Mince and mash garlic cloves and salt into a paste.
3. Add the following to the potatoes:
Garlic/salt paste
4 1/2 tablespoons softened unsalted butter
1 1/8 cups whole milk
4. Cook over moderate low heat, stirring, until fluffy and heated through, about 2 minutes.
5. Add cheese
6. Add pepper
7. Stir until cheese is melted, smooth and taffy like, about 10 minutes.
8. Preheat broiler. Transfer potato mixture into buttered baking dish and smooth the top.
9. Using a mixer beat heavy cream and then add the horseradish.
10. Spread the horseradish cream over potato mixture and broil 4-5 inches from top. Rotate mixture to ensure even browining. Takes about 2 minutes.

I encourage you to make your ricer the "implement of the day" and give this side dish a try. It goes well with any grilled or roasted meat.
It also goes well with teenagers. And that's a result that should satisfy any chef.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Split Pea and Green Pea Soup with Fresh Dill

I have been feasting since Thanksgiving. I am feeling stuffed! I need to put away the sweet treats and large meals for awhile. This split pea soup provided me with a healthy and hearty soup to enjoy on a cold day without leaving me with a feeling of over indulgence.
This soup also gets a double hit of color and flavor from both the split peas and frozen peas. The bay leaf isn't discarded in this recipe; it gets pureed along with the soup.

Split Pea and Green Pea Soup with Fresh Dill
Serves 4-6

Ham bone (leftover from Thanksgiving)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1-1/2 cups chopped leeks (white and pale green parts only)
1-2 carrots chopped
1 bay leaf
1 cup dried green split peas, rinsed
5-6 cups vegetable broth, divided
1 cup frozen petite green peas, thawed
5 tablespoons chopped dill, divided

Heat oil in a heavy large pan over medium-high heat. Add leek, carrots and bay leaf. Saute until the leek wilts, about 3-4 minutes. Add split peas and stir to coat. Add the ham bone (optional) Add the 5 cups vegetable broth; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until split peas are just tender, about 30-35 minutes. Remove from heat.
Transfer 1 cup soup solids, bay leaf and remaining broth to blender. Add petite peas and 4 tablespoons dill. Puree until smooth. Return puree to soup. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into bowls. Sprinkle with remaining dill.


Saturday, December 26, 2009


Picadillo is a traditional Cuban dish made with ground beef, onions, green olives, green bell peppers, raisins, garlic and tomatoes, stewed together and seasoned with cloves and cinnamon. This dish can be served alone, over rice or as a stuffing mixture in empanadas. Personally, I love it over rice. Served up family style this dish can serve a crowd or just a few. This dish is economical, easy to prepare and can be made in batches for freezing for later use.

(Cuban Style Hash)
Serves 6-8

2 tablespoons canola oil
1-4" inch stick cinnamon
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and chopped
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon, halved
1 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2-lbs. ground beef
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
3/4 cups raisins
3/4 cup green pimento-stuffed olives, halved
1 28 ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, undrained, crushed
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Heat oil in a 12" cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add cinnamon stick, onions, and peppers; cook, stirring, until vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add half the ground cinnamon, oregano, cloves, and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add ground beef and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until it browns, 8-10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper; add raisins, olives, and tomatoes. Cook until liquid has evaporated, about 20 minutes. Stir in remainder of ground cinnamon, almonds, and vinegar.


Monday, December 21, 2009

Chicken Stew with Biscuits

I love preparing and eating comfort food this time of year. This recipe is the ultimate in comfort food. A chicken stew, that is essentially the filling for a chicken pot pie topped with homemade buttery, flaky biscuits. I will admit this baked chicken stew takes a little work but, the results will be worth all your efforts.

Chicken Stew with Biscuits
Serves 8
Recipe from: Barefoot Contessa
For the Stew:
3 whole (6 split) chicken breasts
3 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
5 cups chicken stock, preferably homemeade
2 chicken bouillon cubes
12 tablespoons (1- 1/2 sticks) unslated butter
2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 cups medium diced carrots (4 carrots), blanched for 2 minutes
1 10-ounce package frozen peas (2 cups)
1-1/2 cups frozen small whole onions
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley

For the Biscuits:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar 1/4 pound (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced
3/4 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Place the chicken breasts on a sheet pan and rub them with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, or until cooked through. Set aside until cool enough to handle, then remove the meat from the bones and discard the skin. Cut the chicken into large dice. You will have 4 to 6 cups of cubed chicken.

In a small saucepan, heat the chicken stock and the dissolve the bouillon cubes in the stock. In a large pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and saute the onions over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until translucent. Add the flour and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the hot chicken stock to the sauce. Simmer over low heat for 1 more minute, stirring, until thick. Add 2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and the heavy cream. Add the cubed chicken, carrots, peas, onions, and parsley. Mix well. Place the stew in a 10x13x2-inch oval or rectangular baking dish. Place the baking dish on a sheet pan lined with parchment or wax paper. Bake for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the biscuits. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the butter and mix on low speed until the butter is the size of peas. Add the half-and-half and combine on low speed. Mix in the parsley.

Remove the stew from the oven and arrange biscuits on the top of the filling. Brush them with egg wash, and return the dish to the oven. Bake for another 20 to 30 minutes, until the biscuits are brown and the stew is bubbly.


Friday, December 18, 2009

Mom's Orange-Cranberry Relish

This orange cranberry relish recipe that I found at George's food blog A nod is as good as a wink to a blind horse was delicious. I prepared it for Thanksgiving and it was a hit with the family. They enjoyed it as a side dish with the roasted turkey. The next day, the family enjoyed it again as a spread on turkey sandwiches.  I am going to prepare this festive relish for Christmas dinner. If you are looking for a relish to serve up with your roasted meats, think of adding this one to your holiday table. Thanks George!

Mom's Orange-Cranberry Relish
makes 2-3 cups
Recipe from: A Nod is as good as a wink to a blind horse

1 pound fresh cranberries
3 tablespoons dried cranberries
2 sticks cinnamon
1 teaspoon fresh ginger root, minced
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup apple cider
1 teaspoon fresh grated orange zest

In a 2-quart saucepan, place the fresh and dried cranberries, cinnamon, ginger root, brown sugar, apple cider, and orange zest. Stir and simmer over low heat until cranberries pop-about 7 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.

To serve, transfer to a serving bowl.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Tallahassee Cooking Club, December 2009

We enjoyed hosting Cooking Club for the month of December. What a wonderful time of year to be able to host friends and enjoy a wonderful meal together. We were really hoping to entertain outside on our patio. However, the weather was too cold for our guests to be comfortable.
This month our dinner theme was Colombian. Colombian food is best described as a blend of European, with aspects of African and indigenous cuisine.
Join me, on a photo journey of a wonderful evening together discovering the cuisine of Colombia.

Appetizers of smoked chorizo and pesto

A seafood ceviche with scallops, shrimp, avocado, red onion, cilantro, orange, radish and cilantro.

A stuffed beef roll (Carne o Posta Rellena) served with roasted sweet potatoes and cassava

A side dish of sauteed asparagus with a hazelnut sauce that included garlic, olive oil vinegar and parsley. Served with lemon wedges and toasted rounds.

A meal being enjoyed by everyone!

For dessert- Dulce de leche and coconut with additional whipped cream and caramel

January's theme will be focused on New England.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Carrot-Mushroom Barley Stew

 I am taking my cue from George at A Nod Is As A Good As A Wink To A Blind Horse..... . He reminded us that the holiday season is upon us, it's time we start making a few meals that are healthy. Here is my contribution to eating healthy this holiday season.
This Carrot Mushroom Barley Stew is an easy one dish meal that is light and very satisfying. During the holidays, this stew is a perfect for a weeknight meal or lunch.

Carrot Mushroom-Barley Stew
Serves 6
Recipe from Food Network

2 cups carrot juice
10 ounces shitake mushrooms, stems removed and reserved, caps sliced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup instant barley
1 medium onion, chopped
1 stalk celery with leaves, finely diced
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary, crumbled
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
4 medium carrots, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 cups kale or mustard greens, stems removed and leaves torn
1 tablespoon grated ginger peel

1. Bring the carrot juice, 3 cups water and the mushroom stems to a boil in a saucepan over medium heat. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil and 2 tablespoons butter in a pot over medium-high heat. Add the mushroom caps and barley and cook until the barley is barely toasted, about 5 minutes.
2. Add the onion, celery and rosemary to the pot and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the carrots and cook 2 more minutes.
3. Increase the heat to high and add half of the carrot juice mixture, leaving the mushroom steams in the pan. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is almost absorbed, about 6 minutes.
4. Add the remaining carrot juice mixture, the kale and ginger and cook, stirring, until the barley and vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons butter, then ladle stew into bowls.


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Classic Martini

Just in case you have forgotten what a traditional martini tastes like.... Gin or Vodka stirred or shaken.....One drink, so many options.

Classic Martini
Serves 1
2 ounces good quality gin or vodka
1/2ounce dry vermouth

1. Place gin or vodka in a  cocktail shaker with ice.
2. Shake and pour, straining the ice, into a martini glass
3. Garnish with an olive


Saturday, December 5, 2009

Pepper Steak

Our family really enjoyed Misty's recipe for pepper steak I love to cook but, I don't always have time to prepare meals during the week for my family. This recipe is perfect to make during the weekend and serve up fast during the week.

Perfectly Peppered Steak
Serves 4

Note: measurements are approximate and you should adjust to taste
1- 1-1/2lbs beef steak, cut into strips
2-3 bell peppers, any color, cut thinly into strips
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
3-4 garlic cloves, chopped
2-3 cups beef broth
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
Salt and pepper
Onion powder
Garlic powder
1-15 oz tomatoes any style (e.g. crushed, whole, diced)
A splash of your favorite steak sauce
A splash of your favorite Worcestershire sauce
A big splash of soy sauce
1-2 Tablespoons cooking oil
2-3 tablespoons Cornstarch
Hot cooked rice or noodles

1. Slice uncooked steak into slices across the grain. Season with salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder.
2. In a Dutch oven heat oil and brown meat. Remove meat wth a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate.
3. Toss in sliced red onion and bell peppers. Add garlic and beef broth, steak sacue, Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce, ginger and tomatoes.
4. In a small dish, Use 2-3 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with beef broth. Stir until dissolved. Add to simmering pot, to thicken the sauce. Cover and simmer 25-30 minutes.
5. Return meat to pot and simmer
If you need to kick-up the spice Misty recommends that you add a few dashes of hot sauce.
Serve over hot rice or noodles.


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Colombian Style Roasted Chicken Legs

 I love the flavor of these chicken drumsticks. This dish packs a lot of flavor with minimum preparation. The meat is moist and the skin is flavorful.  A perfect dish to marinate the night before and cook the next day. Served with rice and a simple salad, you have a delicious meal, that is kid-friendly too.
This recipe is from Erica's blog where she shares her traditional Colombian food recipes that she grew up eating and enjoying with her family.

Colombian Style Roasted Chicken Legs
(Pierna de pollo Asadas a mi Estilo Colombiano)
Serves 4-6
12 chicken drumsticks with skin
1 bunch scallions
3 garlic cloves
1 medium white onion
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1 tablespoon dried ground cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
2 tablespoons white vinegar
Salt and pepper

1. In a food processor, place the scallions, garlic, onion, cilantro, thyme, vinegar, cumin, paprika, salt and pepper. Process to a paste.
2. Place the chicken in a ziplock bag and add the marinade and cover the chicken evenly with the marinade. Refrigerate the chicken overnight.
3. Cover a baking sheet with foil and coat with cooking spray. Position oven rack in the center of the oven and turn the oven to broil.
4. Place the chicken legs on the baking sheet. Broil for about 25-30 minutes, turning the legs once during cooking or until the chicken is cooked and the drumsticks are golden brown. Let rest for 5 minutes and transfer to a serving plate.


Friday, November 27, 2009

Pomegranate Rosemary Royale

A simple twist on the traditional kir royale-blends tart-sweet pomegranate juice with herbal notes from a rosemary infused syrup. A perfect jewel colored drink for the holidays.

Pomegranate Rosemary Royale
Serves 4
Recipe from Cooking Light
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary leaves
1/2 cup pomegranate juice
2 cups Champagne or sparkling wine

1. Combine 1/4 cup water with sugar in small saucepan; bring to a simmer, stirring until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat. Add rosemary; let stand 30 minutes. Strain through a sieve into a bowl; discard solids.
2. Pour 2 tablespoons pomegranate juice and 1 tablespoon rosemary syrup into 4 Champagne glasses. Top each serving with 1/2 cup Champagne. Serve immediately.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

New York, New York

 "In New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made of-There is nothing you can't do, now you're in New York.  These streets will make you feel brand new, big lights will inspire you, let's hear it for NewYork, New York, New York."
Alicia Keyes- Lyrics from Empire State of Mind

New York City is the largest city in the United States with a population of more than 8 million people. There is no other place like it, in the world.
Words are not necessary when describing our experience. The photos tell the story.



Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Cheaper by the Dozen

What do you do when you have an opportunity to come home with farm fresh eggs?  I am not talking a sweet dozen or maybe two. I am talking about 16 dozen! When I do the math, that's 192 eggs! Of course silly, I said yes! Saying yes, does not equal to having a clue as to what to do with 192 eggs only that saying no was not an option. I had 192 eggs and I was feeling lucky!
There are times in your marriage when you are reminded why you married your spouse. For me, this was one of those moments. His look upon entering the house with my lucky loot was priceless. All he could do was muster  "Woman ( I swear it is a love name) "what are you going to do with all of those eggs?" He knew the answer, and he was correct "No clue" was my reply. He bent his head slightly and gently shook his head from side to side and helped me put the eggs away.
Now, those reading my blog post are thinking the same thing....What did she do with all of those eggs? I am proud to say that all of my eggs have been consumed. Yes, a few dozen were placed in the hands of friends to enjoy. We discovered a lot of new recipes. My son learned to make perfect fried eggs over medium, which he has discovered that he loves served up wih rice as an afternoon lunch, or a quick dinner before soccer practice and most importantly....  We finally get it! Eggs are not just for breakfast anymore!
One of the recipes that we enjoyed frequently with our abundance of eggs was this Barefoot Contessa herbed baked eggs recipe. This dish served up with toast and a simple salad is over the top! Simple enough to enjoy on a weeknight or elegant enough to serve your guests for brunch or dinner.

Herbed-Baked Eggs
(serves 2)
Recipe from Barefoot Contessa
1/4 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
1/4 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan
6 extra-large eggs
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Toasted French bread or sourdough or brioche, for serving.

Preheat the broiler for 5 minutes and place the oven rack 6 inches below the heat.
Combine the garlic, thyme, rosemary, parsley, and Parmesan and set aside. Carefully crack 3 eggs into each of 2 small bowls or teacups ( you won't be baking them in these) without breaking the yolks. ( It's very important to have all the eggs ready to go before you start cooking).
Place 2 individual gratin dishes on a baking sheet. Place 1 tablespoon of cream and 1/2 a tablespoon of butter in each dish and place under the broiler for about 3 minutes, until hot and bubbly. Quickly, but carefully, pour 3 eggs into each gratin dish and sprinkle evenly with the herb mixture, then sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Place back under the broiler for 5 to 6 minutes, until the white of the eggs are almost cooked. ( Rotate the baking sheet once if they aren't cooking evenly). The eggs will continue to cook after you take them out of the oven. Allow to set for 60 seconds and serve hot with toasted bread.


Remind me to tell you why I have 20lbs of sweet potatoes and 20lbs of fuji apples too.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

For the Love of Martinis

My husband has a well earned reputation for the cocktails he can shake-up for family and friends. This is one of my favorite flavored martinis, and is a wonderful cocktail to serve guests or to relax and enjoy yourself.

Lemon Drop Martini Cocktail
(Serves 2)
2 lemon wedges
Super fine Sugar
1/2 cup of good quality of citrus flavored vodka
1/2 cup orange liquer such as Cointreau
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 Tablespoons lemon-lime soda
1 Tablespoon sweet and sour mix

Push lemon wedge onto the rim of 1 martini glass;rotate glass to coat rim with lemon juice. Repeat with second lemon wedge and martini glass. (Note: I like to place my martini glasses in the freezer before using them). Discard lemon wedges.
Place sugar on a shallow plate. Dip rim of martini glasses into sugar. Fill cocktail shaker with ice cubes. Add remaining ingredients to cocktail shaker and shake vigorously. Strain into martini glasses.


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Chicken Smothered in Gravy

 A lightened American classic. This dish calls for skinless chicken drumsticks, which have only slightly more fat than breasts. Served family style, this dish showcases traditional American flavors while being healthy and delicious.

Chicken Smothered in Gravy
(Serves 4)
Recipe from Food and Wine

2-1/2 tablespoons canola oil
8-3 ounce skinless chicken drumsticks (I used skinless thighs)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1- ounce bacon (1 thick slice) cut crosswise into 1/4 inch strips
1-1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
1 large tomato-peeled, seeded and coarsely choped
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 cup 2-percent milk
1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 parsley sprigs plus 2 teaspoons chopped parsley

1. Preheat oven to 375F degrees. In an ovenproof non-stick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and add to pan. Cook over moderately high heat until browned all over, 8 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate.
2. Add the bacon to the skillet and cook, stirring, until the fat is rendered, 2 minutes. Drain off the fat. Add the remianing 1-1/2 tablespoons of oil to skillet, and stir in the flour until incorporated. Add the onion and garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until slightly softened, 3 minutes. Add the tomato and tomato paste and cook, stirring until the tomato softens slightly, 5 minutes. Add the milk and broth and bring to a boil, stirring until slightly thickened, 3 minutes. Return the chicken and any accumulated juices to the skillet; add the parsley sprigs.
3. Cover the chicken and braise in the oven for 20 minutes, until the meat is cooked through. Using tongs, transfer the chicken to a platter and discard the parsley sprigs.
4. Return the skillet to moderate heat and cook the gravy, whisking constantly, until smooth, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the chopped parsley, pour the gravy over the chicken legs and serve.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Deep Dish Apple Pie

 The hint of citrus that is added to the apple mixture is delightful. This is a perfect way to enjoy all those delicious apples that are in season. This is also a great addition to the Thanksgiving table.

Deep-Dish Apple Pie
Makes: one 10-inch pie
Note: Recipe from Barefoot Contessa
4 pounds Granny Smith apples, peeled, quartered and cored
Zest of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 orange
2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup sugar, plus 1 teaspoon to sprinkle on top
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
Perfect Pie crust ( see recipe below)
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash

1. Preheat the oven to 400 F
2. Cut each apple quarter in thirds crosswise and combine in a bowl with the zests, juices, 1/2 cup sugar, flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice.
3. Roll out half the pie dough ( see recipe below) and drape it over the pie pan to extend about 1/2 inch over the rim. Don't stretch the dough; if  it's too small, just put it back on the board and re-roll it.
4. Fill the pie with the apple mixture. Brush the edge of the bottom piecrust with the egg wash so the top crust will adhere. Top with the second crust and trim the edges of the bottom crust and crimp the two together with your fingers or a fork. Brush the entire top crust with the egg wash, sprinkle with 1 teaspoon sugar and cut four or five slits.
5. Place the pie on a sheet pan and bake for 1 to 1 1/4 hours, or until the crust is browned and the juices begin to bubble out. Serve warm.

Perfect Pie Crust
Makes: two 10-inch crusts

12 Tablespoons (1-1/2 sticks) very cold unsalted butter
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1/3 cup very cold vegetable shortening
6 to 8 tablespoons ( about 1/2 cup) ice water

1. Dice the butter and return it to the refrigerator while you prepare the flour mixture. Place the flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse a few times to mix. Add the butter and shortening. Pulse 8 to 12 times, until the butter is the size of peas. With the machine running, pour the ice water down the feed tube and pulse the machine until the dough begins to form a ball. Dump out on a floured board and roll into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
2. Cut the dough in half. Roll each piece on a well floured board into a circle, rolling from the center to the edge, turning and flouring the dough to make sure it doesn't stick to the board. Fold the dough in half, place in a pie pan and unfold to fit the pan. Repeat with the top crust.


Friday, November 6, 2009

Guest Blog Post-The Simple Grace of Sharing a Meal

My husband and I are headed to New York City this weekend to celebrate our wedding anniversary. We are planning to explore the local neighborhoods and enjoy the sights, sounds and food of New York City. Christine from Fresh, Local and Best has armed us with some wonderful local food establishments to visit.  This would include, the Chelsea Market, which she tells us is where the Food Network tapes most of their shows, such as the Iron Chef.  We are also planning to visit The Green Table, Amy's Bread Making, Burdick Chocolate, Bouchon Bakery and Ippudo NY for Asian noodles and pork buns! Thank you Christine! We are going to experience all your recommendations.

While away, I have asked Lin from The Absence of Alternatives to be a guest blogger. She has graciously agreed.  She is funny and honest and has a very interesting perspective on life that is contagious.  I have no doubt that you will enjoy her blog post. Please take the time to visit her blog at  I can promise that you will not be disappointed.

The Simple Grace of Sharing a Meal
Velva has kindly invited me to be a guest blogger here. I am honored to be part of this wonderful place, her private heaven that she so selflessly shares with us. There are many blogs out there that celebrate the art of cooking. What drew me to Velva's and soon made me a fan, is her belief in and her unabashed celebration of eating as a ritual through which we become closer with each other.
I was struck the first time I read it on the banner  "sustaining our bonds with one another through the simple grace of sharing a meal" Could this Southern belle be Chinese?

I thought, because that is the Chinese attitude towards food. Well, we don't really put it in words so poetic. We say cryptic things like "A person is as important as the Emperor when s/he  is sitting down for a meal" THAT is also the attitude towards meals many cultures hold: the French, the Itailian, the Spanish, and so on.
When a friend of mine lamented about a girlfriend's betrayal by invoking this "rule" literally, in her litany, "But she has come to dinner with me and my mother. SHE BROKE WITH US!",  I learned that in some socio/cultural circles, sharing a meal, "breaking bread", has an even deeper symbolic meaning: you have come to my house to share a meal with my family. By this act, we mutually agree, implicitly, that we are now friends. You are now accepted into the "circle of trust".
The simple joy of enjoying great food and great friends. The ritual. The community. The circle of trust. These are things that I have not been able to recreate in the suburban Midwest. No. There is no Joy Luck  Club in our lfe.
I agonized over what I could possibly contribute to Velva's foodblog. I cannot cook. I have two left hands which render my dexterity to Zero. (Think: sewing, knitting, soap carving, video games, Voguing). I feed my children boxed Macaroni and Cheese, and all sorts of processeed, frozen food. I eat instant noodles from a pot over the kitchen sink on some nights. As a feast, I treat myself by using a proper bowl, and drink a glass of vodka and cranberry juice.
I know. I am an abomination of a Chinese woman. I let the 5000 years of historical grandeur down.
I don't even try any more: I stress out over the sheer number of foods my children will not touch. My 6 year-old will basically only eat food that is white: white bread, plain pasta, white rice, white pizza. Nothing can touch each other. (He did ask me to include the fact that he LOVES broccoli. "So the other mothers will be jealous of you" Steamed for 6 minutes. No more, no less). My husband, though he would certainly deny this vehemently, holds a puritanical attitude towards eating: I Hunger, I eat. I leave. Or is that Roman actually?
Once I spent 3 hours making a special dish, from scratch. After he finished the meal, my husband said,  "It is very good" . "But I probably don't need to have it again".
When we visited my family, the irony in my life was further magnified since my brother and his son are both accomplished chefs in Japanese cuisine. As plates, after plates, of skillfully made and artfully arranaged dishes were presented to my "American family", I gave my boys THE death stare to make sure they keep their polite expressions on. They would end up eating only the white rice and horrifying my brother or nephew and his entire staff. I would end up eating 99% of the food. Going home is VERY TRAUMATIC to my waistline, let me just put it this way....
I dug through the pictures of my trip back home this March and realized: My poor kids! In two weeks they were dragged to Japanese restaurants four times!  Instead of eating the food, they pose for their pictures to be taken with the food. That itself has become a ritual.

"Take a picture of the boys with this before YOU eat it!

There are also tons and tons of pictures of them goofing off with their uncles and aunts, their cousins, and their maternal granparents. Even the chefs and the wait staff.

Perhaps, the point is not how delicious the food is. Perhaps the point is  "It's the people, stupid"
"Through the simple grace of sharing a meal" Ms. Velva, I salute you. With that big barrel of sake.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

One Martini, Two Martini, Three Martini, The Floor

If you have been following my blog, you will know that we find any reason to get together. This past weekend was not any different. We invited a few of our friends and asked them to shake up a few of their favorite martinis with us. We served them up in shot glasses.  As always, we are never disappointed. Here are few highlights from the Martini Tasting.

A Yellow Cake Martini that included vanilla vodka, pineapple juice and a splash of Rose's Pomegrante Cocktail twist.

Friends helping friends shake up good martinis

The classic shaken gin martini

The chocolate martini

Appetizers brought along by friends to enjoy with our martinis


Friday, October 30, 2009

Winter Minestrone

This soup is soul satisfying and full of winter greens. Since this soup has to cook slowly don't worry about prepping all your vegetables before you begin-just chop as you go.

Winter Minestrone
Serves 8
Recipe from Gourmet
1/3 lb. sliced pancetta, chopped
3 medium red onions, chopped
4 celery ribs, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 bunch swiss chard
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 (28-oz) can whole tomatoes in juice
3 qt hot water
5 cups coarsely chopped cored Savoy cabbage (6 oz)
5 cups coarsely chopped escarole (1/2 lb)
1 piece Parmigiano-Reggiano rind
1 (19-oz) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
Accompaniments: extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling; cooked ditalini pasta tossed with oil (optional);grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1. Cook pancetta, onions, celery, and carrots in oil in a wide 7-to 9-qt heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, while preparing chard.
2. Cut out stems from chard and chop stems, reserving leaves. Stir chard stems into pancetta mixture with garlic, 1 tsp salt, and 3/4 tsp pepper and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are very tender and begin to stick to bottom of pot (about 45 minutes).
3. Push vegetables to one side of pot. Add tomato paste to cleared area and cook, stirring constantly, until it starts to caramelize, about 2 minutes. ( Paste may stick to pot, but don't let it burn).
4. Stir into tomatoes with their juice, breaking them up with a spoon,then add hot water (3 qt), scraping up any brown bits from bottom of pot.
5. Bring to a simmer. Stir in cabbage, escarole, and parmesan rind. Simmer, covered, until greens are tender, about 40 minutes.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Prosciutto-Wrapped Greens

This is a great appetizer! So easy and so good, these pretty bundles can be assembled in minutes.

Prosciutto-Wrapped Greens
Serves 8
(Recipe from fine cooking)

3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/4 lb. mesclun or arugula, washed and spun dry
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2Tbs. freshly grated ground black pepper
2 Tbs. freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
12 thin slices proscuitto

In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, and mustard. Put the mesclun or argula in a medium bowl and season with a generous pinch of salt and pepper. add the Parmigiano to the greens and gently toss with just enough of the vinaigrette to coat the greens lightly. Taste for salt and pepper.
Set a slice of prosciutto on a work surface and put a small handful of greens at the narrow end of the meat. Squeeze the greens together and roll the proscuitto into a tight log. Cut the log into 2-inch pieces on the diagonal (two or three pieces, depending on the width of the proscuitto). Repeat with the remaining proscuitto and greens and serve.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Water is for Ducks

This month we joined our wine loving friends for our monthly wine club event. The focus this evening was discovering Washington State wines.
Washington State is the second-largest fine wine producing state next to California. Oregon is third. Many of the quality Washington State wines are Cabernet Sauvignon, and at half the price of a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Need I say more? For those of you who enjoy a good Cabernet Sauvignon, I encourage you to explore these wines. You will not be disappointed.
Here are some food highlights from our wine tasting evening.

Baked Italian Style Meatballs

Grilled Shrimp

Rolled Flank Steak Stuffed with Cheese and Spinach

Baked Mozzarella Mini-Tarts