Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Dishes.

This Christmas was definitely one of the better ones for me personally. While it was major change of scenery (compared to the last few years in Indiana), it was a pleasant surprise in many ways. My dad invited my uncle over for Christmas under the guise of preparing one of his recipes, Poulet en Foillette. Until recently, I knew he was a fabulous cook, but didn't know that in November 1978, he was featured in a dead column called Guys and Galleys in the Los Angeles Times. This section featured home cooks and their personal recipes. I was eager to search for a copy of the article through the archives and was lucky enough on Christmas Day to find and purchase a copy through the LA Times website.
But more pleasing than this, was the opportunity to spend quality time with my uncle, father, brother and my dad's new ladyfriend, and yes, get to prepare and sous chef a wonderful Christmas meal. Uncle Stormy walked me through all of the steps in preparing said Poulet en Foillette, a fancy phrase for Chicken wrapped in phyllo dough. But foodies, trust me, this not simply chicken wrapped in phyllo dough.
Chicken breasts (on the bone, skin on) are poached in a swimming pool of lemon juice, vermouth, various herbs and chicken stock for about an hour. Once cool to the the touch the meat is removed from the bone and sliced into decent hunks of meat. Two sheets of phyllo dough are generously brushed with butter. The phyllo dough is sprinkled with seasoned bread crumbs, then a piece of chicken is wrapped with prosciutto and placed near the top of the phyllo dough. Grated mozzarella cheese is sprinkled, along some with gruyere and the phyllo concoction is gently folded and wrapped into a lil' burrito and brushed again with more butter and sprinkled with a wee shake of paprika. Baked in the oven for 15-20 minutes and doused with a gravy made from the leftover poaching liquid, this dish is a masterpiece fit for one's mouth.
My dad's lady friend made a side dish of roasted brussel sprouts and potatoes with pancetta and shallots, a perfect sidekick for the main event. I put together a simple salad and baked some homemade "no knead" bread again, which according to my uncle, was a great mop for the leftover gravy on the plate. I also baked a batch of linzer cookies, which weren't my most favorite cookie, but my best linzer recipe is still packed. Good vino, good conversation, lots of belly laughing, and celebrated were had by all. I hope you and yours enjoyed a most memorable Christmas with your loved ones. I'm looking forward to setting aside time to do this again, it was well worth the work and the weight. Here's to more fabulous dishes in 2010. Cheers. More importantly, it was a great opportunity to spend time with family and to enjoy each other's company, which is rare these days.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Oh the weather outside ain't frightful.....

...really, it isn't. I mean, you may not think it's even Christmastime around here, but it is. And it's nearly 77 degrees. Los Angeles, man. What else can I say? And what better way to celebrate the season than to invite friends from The Ripple Effect over for some gaming, some laughing, and of course, some eating.
Tonight, I made a mixed green salad with a dijon balsamic viniagrette for a starter. Simple, yet delicious (it really is all about the dressing, after all). Marinated some minced shallots in a good balsamic vinegar with some salt and pepper. Whisked in a bit of dijon mustard and some finely grated Parmigiana (Grana from TJ's) and added some olive oil. The dress truly is the star in this performance, so I didn't add any further toppings or hoopla.

For the main course, I tried a new recipe - Braised Pork Ribs and Italian Sausage (sweet and hot). Braised with onions, peppers, basil, chili pepper flakes, white wine, whole Italian tomatoes and served over cooked pasta, it seemed to be a crown pleaser. The dish is topped off with crispy pancetta, sliced scallions, and some finely grated Parm. A good choice, say, if you're housebound as a result of a nasty blizzard, or just because in my case, you can't resist the pork.

And for the grand finale, a tribute to all desserts Italian in nature....tiramisu. Quite simply one of the easiest desserts to put together and yet it still has the "wow" factor when dinner guests take that first bite. I substituted Frangelico (hazelnut liquer) for the kahula (some recipes call for rum) and I think it worked out just fine. The only issue I've found with tiramisu recipes is that more often than not, you use more ladyfingers than the recipe calls for and you end up needing more of the espresso/liquer mixture for dipping. I'm glad I bought extra.

I hope you are able to take the time and spend it with loved ones, whether family or not. As the song says, "It's the most wonderful time of the year".....I know, I know, cliche. But it worked!!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Crafty Cookin'

Recently, I've had a strong desire to make pickles, don't ask me where this sudden urge arose from, but it's loud and it's proud and I have a feeling it isn't going anywhere. Whenever I have a sudden urge to do anything, I usually research and research, oh and did I mention research the heck out of it before I commit myself to it? It's true, call it the neurotic slightly-Jewish-by-heritage side, but it's how I roll. I picked up a copy of this gem called Jam It Pickle It Cure It at the library and have been devouring it late at night in my bed. The book's title alone was a worth a trip to my local library branch. This book isn't really all about pickling, though a chapter is dedicated to this craft, but it covers all "crafty" endeavors when it comes to homemade pantry items. The book has "recipes" or "instructions" for making your own butter, bacon, cheese, marshmallows, crackers and more. If you are into food and crafts, this book might bring you to your knees. The bonus is that this book is clean, laid out professionally and has an innate ability to draw you into its world. I've written a few recipes down and made a list of ingredients to get for some food projects. I will definitely keep you informed of the "results".

Sunday, December 6, 2009

To Knead or Not to Knead....

...that is the question. LA Weekly's food blog, Squid Ink, featured a conversation piece with Jim Lahey, author who advocates a "no knead" approach to baking artisanal breads. The article offered his basic "No Knead" bread recipe, which I tried over the weekend. I was hesitant, I must admit. I mean, how many times, have you read a bread recipe and it instructed you to knead the bread for at least 10 minutes. I'm a fan of crusty, holey bread, that's the "crumb" I dig most and whenever I bake bread, I'm constantly trying to recreate it. I may have found my Picasso, my masterpiece in the recipe. The recipe calls for bread flour, but I used all purpose here. With the addition of some salt, cool water and yeast, I Incorporated these ingredients and covered with plastic wrap. For a minimum of 12 hours and Lahey encourages you to postpone step #2 for 18 hours, I left the dough alone to ferment slowly at room temperature.
This morning I awoke and continued with step #2, very gently removing the dough from the bowl, handling it at a minimum and allowing to rise yet again, covered, free form, in a flour-dusted cloth. About half an hour before it finished its second rise, I put my enameled cast iron Dutch oven in a 475 degree oven to heat up. Post the second rise, I transferred the dough carefully into the hot (and I mean STEAMING) Dutch oven and covered it. Baked it for 30 minutes, removed the top so it could develop a beautiful golden crust, for another 15 minutes and transferred to a cooling rack to cool, before slicing off a hunk and swirling honey on top.
The magic lies, yes, in not kneading, but also creating a natural steam environment, by baking it in a dutch oven or casserole. This basic recipe could lead to a cornucopia of additions, such as herbs, cheese, jalapenos, spices and what not. The possibilities are endless.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Chocolate, Wine and NapaStyle

It's been a long time coming, but my time finally arrived last night, when a few girlfriends and I attended a Chocolate and Wine Tasting at NapaStyle in Costa Mesa. Michael Chiarello, celebrated chef, farmer and wine connoisseur, stopped in for a chit chat, tastings and photo ops. He's the real deal, what you see on television is what you get in real life, and I appreciate it. Upon this gorgeous long wooden table were samples of some treats too - truffles, chocolate covered pecorino, tapenade, and more. Last night's gathering featured three wines from his vineyard, the Eileen Cabernet Sauvignon, Bambino Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Roux Syrah. Michael named the Eileen Cab after his wife and calls it a "wine with hips", and the man does not lie. Bold, beautiful notes of cherries, blackberries perfume the complex yet very easy to drink Cab. Chiarello's vineyards are all organic and he mentioned that they are going bio dynamic as well. What surprises me is how much I enjoyed both Cabernet's, even though it's not a red wine, I typically enjoy. He talked alot about terroir and sustainability. Not just sustainability in terms of the vineyards, but sustainability as it relates to the vineyard's employees and workers, making sure they are able to visit and spend quality time with their families. His restaurant in Yountville, California, Bottega, is making a name for itself as well. Here, Michael, runs his professional kitchen and celebrates the bounty of Napa Valley with his simple yet elegant Italian cuisine. I'm hoping to make it up there soon for some more wine, good eats and great company. Salute, as Michael would say.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Post Turkey Day.

I have good news, remember here where I attempted my first turkey and ruined it? And I cried and cried over burnt green beans? Well, suffice to say, I have redeemed myself in the turkey department and the green bean department. My dad was a little weary of me taking over the turkey reins, but I pleaded my case. Meet Gary (depicted above), our organic fresh turkey, this was right before he was electrically carved by my dad. All in all, the turkey turned out great, moist and flavorful.
I have to say the gravy ROCKED! With the neck and giblets, veggies and herbs, I made a turkey broth, which was the base for the homemade gravy. A little white wine, some butter, flour and BAM (can you hear Emeril?), a killer gravy. It was rich and there's leftovers which I believe I will pour everything that comes my way the next few days!!
Kudos to my dad for making his chorizo stuffing (he should've made more) and sweet potatoes with bourbon. Again, tasty, tasty, tasty. That chorizo stuffing and the gravy together were a match made in heaven. These two dishes have become staples for my dad, I don't he can go without them during the holiday season.
I made green beans with toasted walnuts in a lemon dijon vinagrette from the November issue of Bon Appetit. The viniagrette (minced shallots, lemon zest, lemon juice, dijon mustard and olive oil) is a great combination with crisp, warm green beans. This dressing is a great compliment to any variety of green veggies. My brother, Benjamin, enjoys cranberry sauce (I can do without it) and so I tried a new recipe this year from my Martha Stewart Christmas Cookbook, a cranberry sauce with driend cherries recipe. It also featured orange zest, orange juice, minced shallots, and grated ginger. Sweet, but let's face it anything beats a can of cranberry. I mean, we go to all the trouble of making a nice turkey, pies, stuffing, the works and then someone yells out, "Pass me the can opener??" So wrong, but that's another topic of discussion.
Don't shoot me, I'm not a huge pumpkin pie eater either, but I referred back to the November issue of Bon Appetit for this year's pumpkin pie with walnut brown sugar topping. Served with some fresh whipped cream, it was a great ending to a great feast. Of course, the company couldn't be beat and neither was the wine. I hope you and yours had a memorable Thanksgiving this year. To many more!!!!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Results Are In.....

Since I've been staying with family in LA, I haven't exactly lived up to my reputation as a gourmet cook. In fact, I have hardly cooked much at all since I've been back. Several reasons, I suppose, but alas with the holiday season upon us, this is one of my favorite times of year to "strut" my culinary stuff, so to speak.

This Sweet Potato Pound Cake perfumed the kitchen last night, and when my dad came home, I got the "ooos" and "aahhhhs", in fact, my dad told me to "hide" it! I mentioned this recipe here, and when I found out the law firm I work at decided to have a potluck the day before Thankgiving I knew exactly what I wanted to make, or I should say, bake. The drum roll began at 12 noon and the consensus was overwhelminly positive. The pound cake is moist and dense, not overly sweet, which was not expected. Topped with a dollop of fresh whipped cream or maybe a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream would do the trick. And for all you coffee lovers out there, it's a perfect match too.
Tomorrow I will post our Thanksgiving menu,with a blow-by-blow description of the feast!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Run, Don't Walk

Run, don't walk to see this film. It's not in the theaters anymore, but it was just released on DVD this week. I've been patiently awaiting its release (it didn't come to Fort Wayne before I left) and last night I received it in the mail from Netflix. Food, Inc. is genius, pure and simple. We could sit around the fire and debate political issues all night long, but the fact of the matter is that the government is not looking out for our interests when it comes to food production. There's not an argument you can formulate to argue otherwise, and we can make all the excuses in the world for making certain decisions. There are many important lessons transmitted by this film, one of which confirms that our voice often is connected to our wallets. How we spend our money speaks volume. And it's not all about money, it's also about life and longevity, something this country is not known for, yet we still remain a powerhouse globally on the economic scale. It doesn't make sense and I think this film brilliantly displays that very fact. For more information on the film and getting involved on a "deeper" level, check out . I am definitely stirred up to make better choices and do some research on the issues presented in this film, I'm choosing to vote with my wallet.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Tibet Nepal House

Last night, I met an old friend for dinner in Pasadena, it was Tibetan food, a first for me. We dined at the Tibet Nepal House, located on Holly Street in the heart of downtown Pasadena. If I were to compare it to other ethnic cuisine, I would say there's a distinct connection to Indian food, minus the heat and intensity of flavor palettes. My experience with Tibetan food is very primitive obviously, but I enjoyed trying something new.

The Himalayan Chicken consisted of leg and thigh pieces roasted in a clay oven with a mixture of different spices. It sizzled to our table on a bed of onions begging us to dig in and devour. Squeeze a lemon segment over it and it brought out all the flavor from the chicken. It was moist and delicious. Masala Kukhura reminded me a Chicken Tikka Masala with its rich creamy sauce, however, it was slightly nutty and sweet. Again, the chicken was cooked to perfection. And the sauce poured on top of some rice really did the trick! A side of Aloo Phulkopi Tarkaari starred potatoes and cauliflower in a delicate sauce, cooked with onions and tomatoes. The only "downers" of the meal were the garlic naan and the rice. What can I say, I've been spoiled by Electric Lotus' garlic naan! And I could tell the rice had been sitting around, it was dry. They do feature lamb dishes, goat and yak, which is apparently what they are known for.

The restaurant offers a lunch buffet throughout the week ($8.99 during the week and $9.99 on the weekends). It may be worth trying another time for more variety, but I'd have to say this restaurant definitely "peaked" my curiosity further when it comes to Tibet and its cuisine. I will have to do some further investigation when it comes to Tibetan food in Los Angeles.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

NPR and Cakes.

Call it what you may, but living in Los Angeles forces most of us to spend some "quality time" in our vehicles driving to and from work. Last night, sitting in traffic, I was listening to NPR and caught a wonderful story which featured a very special lady. Melissa Gray (who works at NPR) is known around the office as a "baking guru". It's not hard to spot this kind of colleague, those employees who spend evenings in front of an oven, rolling out pie dough, or whipping up some homemade buttercream frosting for a delicate sponge cake. You know the kind I'm talking about, I happen to fall into that category myself. And as a result of Melissa's dedication and love for baking cakes of all treats, she has published a book entitled "All Cakes Considered". The title is a play on NPR's broadcast, All Things Considered. As I continued my commute out of downtown Los Angeles, Melissa's featured recipe for Sweet Potato Pound Cake practically had me foaming at the mouth. Click on the link above to hear the story, read the article and print the recipe. I know what I'm going to bake this weekend, and now you do too.
Photo courtesy of

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Sweet Life in Paris.

I literally just finished reading David Lebovitz' memoir of living in Paris, The Sweet Life in Paris. Once a pastry chef at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Lebovitz moved to Paris and chronicles the ups and downs of acclimating to the Parisian lifestyle. Witty, clever, and laugh-out-loud moments pull you into this "slice of life" vacation from your worries and woes. It's in the number one destination slot for me (followed by Spain) and this memoir only cements my desire to travel there sooner rather than later. In addition to entertaining reading, David includes some to-die-for recipes (if your mouth doesn't water or if you don't drool after perusing the recipes, perhaps you should be committed for psychiatric evaluation. If you enjoy a foodie/travel memoir, you are sure to enjoy this one. You should visit his blog too (Link is above) to check out more of his adventures while living Paris.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Green Kitchen

Last night, I came upon, a fabulous internet series, created by Alice Waters, called The Green Kitchen. I wanted to share the link with you all as I think the mission and purpose of this short series is something worth sharing, especially, for learning basic culinary skills! Many well known chefs are featured in these less than 10 minute episodes, sharing how to make a simple viniagrette to making salsas, and the basics of roasting a chicken. I encourage everyone to watch a few episodes, you will definitely learn something new, if, not brush up on a few everday skills! And pass the link on to your friends and family.

Friday, September 11, 2009

cake rituals.

One of the things I love about cooking and food is the relationship between certain foods and our memories. My stepdad fondly remembered his grandmother in Oklahoma baking him a certain chocolate caked called Gertrude Armstrong Cake. Now I'm not quite sure the evolution of its name, but having a fondness for baking, when I met my stepdad, I decided to do some research and find a recipe for his favorite childhood sweet treat.

Everytime I spend time with my mom and stepdad in Washington (and when they lived in Utah) I have to make this cake ( I feel guilty if I don't), and sometimes I've been known to make 2 cakes during my visit. When I visited them the first week of September, I made him one cake with its traditional uber sweet (thanks to powdered sugar) frosting. The second go round, I made it with a chocolate ganache frosting - which is pictured above (my personal favorite).

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


I have often ranted and raved about one of my favorite foodie bloggers, Molly Wizenberg of Orangette. I spent last week visiting my mom and stepdad in Seattle (they live on Whidbey Island) and had the distinct pleasure of dining at Delancey with my mom.

When Molly's book, A Handmade Life, was released earlier this year, I eagerly awaited her appearance at a book signing in the midwest, but she didn't quite make it that far....and so I asked (begged and pleaded, sorta) my mom to attend a book signing in Seattle and have my book signed. Much to my mother's surprise, she had a splendid time at the event and read the book at a much needed getaway to Arch Cape, Oregon.

While planning our trip, I made it clear, WE MUST GO TO DELANCEY. And alas this past Thursday, after spending a lovely (and FREE) afternoon at the Seattle Art Museum, soaking in the rays of glorious modern art, we headed over to the Seattle suburb of Ballard to grab a seat at Delancey.

Luck would have it when we arrived, the wait for a table was 45-60 minutes but there were two seats at the bar, and so we dove for them. It really was a special treat to sit there, we got to watch Brandon, Molly and their crew, prepare pizzas, etc. The bar is literally where all the action is. In fact, had we not sat at the bar, we wouldn't have met our chatty diner, Matt (who has frequented Delancey two to three times a week since it has opened) and we wouldn't have had the chance to meet and chat with Molly.

To start we split a salad with grana padano, thinly sliced radishes and a red wine viniagrette. Simple and fresh. Matt convinced us to order the "Padron", a wood fired pizza topped with padron chiles, grana padano, aged and mozzarella. Honestly, it didn't take much convincing, both my mother and I are "spicy" indeed, and I'm not just talking about chiles! :) Watching Brandon monitor the wood fire oven's temperature constantly, you could tell he's serious about HEAT. The pizzas nearly take two to three minutes to bake. It's that HOT. And in my humble opinion, I would've waited half an hour for a pizza that good. The crust was delicate and puffy pockets of air filled special crevices that melted in your mouth. Heaven, we were in heaven.........which leads to us to dessert.
Two choices, we had to indulge with both - Molly's famous chocolate chip cookies with grey salt and an organic blackberry yogurt popsicle. Every adult and child's favorites, cookies and ice cream. All that was missing was a chilled glass of 2% milk to accompany them both. The cookie was delicious, chewy and crunchy all at the same time. The grey salt brought out the chocolate chips, made them sing, in fact. The blackberry popsicle was savory and sweet. There wasn't an ounce of guilt for eating such delicious treats.

Between our chatty conversations with other foodies and taking in the pleasures of simple food, prepared with heart and soul, it was meal to be remembered. Thank you Molly and Brandon, thank you.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Brownies, Baby!

When I get the urge to bake, I have to B-A-K-E! One of the pros of staying with my dad is being able to bake in his 1950's O'Keefe & Merritt gas stove. It has always baked like a dream and now the dream has come full circle. Earlier this week, I decided to bake brownies and I turned to the Downtown Bakery Brownies recipe from David Lebovitz's, The Great Book of Chocolate. David has been a rock solid powerhouse when it comes to all things dessert. And this recipe does not disappoint. Rich and chocolately. Nutty and warm, topped off with a simple chocolate ganache which takes them to a whole other level. This great cookbook has other delicious recipes and useful information for those with a baking flair.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Mango Mama.

Last night my dad and I went grocery shopping at two of my favorite grocery stores- Whole Foods and Trader Joes (Sorry Ft. Wayners, neither exist in your area,closest is Indy). We bought some delicious albacore and planned on grilling it, along with some veggies (yellow squash pictured above). I've always loved grilled fish with mango salsa, but had never made my own, so I decided to top off the grilled albacore with it! Off to Vallarta I went, this afternoon, and picked up some cheap and delicious produce to toss into this heavenly concotion. So what's inmy mango salsa,you ask? One mango, about 1/4 cup of chopped cilantro, 1 minced jalapeno, half of a red onion, 1 small diced avocado, juice of one lime, salt and pepper to taste. The salsa was so refreshing and it featured all of the qualities with respect to flavor. The sweet succulence of the mango, the heat of the jalapeno, the freshness of cilantro, tang from the lime and buttery and creaminess from the avocado. A delicious and healthy way to top off a piece of grilled meat. Try it sometime, you will thank me. I swear.

PS - Must give props to my dad who grilled the fish,he marinated it in a little soy sauce, lemon juice and olive oil! He's the grilling master!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Julie & Julia

Last night, a foodie friend and I went to a showing of the new film, Julie & Julia. Written and directed by Nora Ephron, this film combines two wonderful foodie books, My Life in France by Julia Child and Julie & Julia by Julie Powell. My Life in France focuses on a decade when Julia and Paul Child lived in France, and essentially follows the story of how Julia Child pursued her favorite hobby, eating. Child went to the Le Cordon Bleu school for cooking and later started teaching Americans in Paris how to cook. Julie & Julia, the book, is based on Julie Powell's year long blog dedicated to completing 524 recipes (all from Mastering the Art of French Cooking) in one year. For all you foodies out there, the film is inspirational. When we left the theater, all we wanted to do was COOK!

I'm still getting adjusted to the west coast lifestyle, so I haven't yet mustered the desire to cook but after that movie, I'm being lured into the kitchen.......and even if you're not a "foodie" or don't enjoy cooking, the film is enjoyable. Meryl Streep's performance is divine! Bon Appetit!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Los Angeles Bound.

I may have mentioned in some recent posts that I am moving back to California in a few weeks (two to be exact), and I wanted to let you know that it is fast approaching and I won't be able to devote any time to sharing my foodie adventures until I get back to California. More than likely, I will be changing the name of my blog and revamping a few things, but until then, peace and good eats! My brother, Benjamin, is driving across country with me and we will be making some culinary stops along the way, so I'm sure my west coast blogs will cover some of the gems we eat at along the drive! Thanks for continuing to check in here! And I will see you all on the WEST side! Cheers!

Monday, July 6, 2009

For the love of a meatball....

In the midst of packing up my life, I've had to rely on creative juices and my recipe box, which I have yet to pack, for sustenance. Practically all of my books, including my cookbook collection, are stowed away in neat little boxes until they breath again in Los Angeles. Anyhoo, I pulled out a Martha Stewart recipe for Swedish meatballs, and last night, finally made these delightful balls of meat (ground sirloin and ground pork, by the way). Classic meatballs, these were flavored with my trusty friends, nutmeg and allspice, and topped with a lovely gravy made from beef stock, red wine and flour. Simple and delicious, I served them on top of some pasta and caramelized the crap out of an onion and some mushrooms. These meatballs were so delicious, I can't wait to eat the leftovers for lunch. Chock full of protein and flavor, these balls are a thing of beauty.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

giada de laurentis and everyday pasta.

Most of you blog followers know I have been writing restaurant reviews and cookbook reviews for a local entertainment magazine in Fort Wayne. Part of the process I go through for reviewing cookbooks is to borrow them from the library, snuggle up on the couch and go through them. Soothing and inspiring, this process allows me to relax as well as research which books Fort Wayne foodies may benefit from most. One of the books I recently perused was Giada de Laurentis' Everyday Pasta. Not typically a fan of her show on Food Network, I was rather impressed with this book. Loved the layout and the majority of recipes seemed simple and intriguing, even for pasta (not your typical spaghetti and meatballs book). I made a soup from this book which brough together swiss chard, pancetta, ravioli (though the book listed tortellini, the store was out), carrots, cannellini beans, shallots and broth. I topped mine with a sprinkling of pecorino romano. I loved that it took less than 30 minutes to put together and that it was healthy too. I plan on trying one her pasta recipes this week, it's an artichoke pesto pasta!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

yucatan lime soup.

So it's a weeknight, you want to make a light meal, you are strapped for time, what do you make? Well, why don't you pull out your Yucatan Lime Soup recipe?? I found this gem many years ago, thanks to the Food Network (it was an old episode of Emeril Live) and since then it's been like a trusty friend. This soup will be ready in about half an hour and requires minimal prep work. This lime juice infused soup contains chopped onions, cumin, 1 chopped chicken breast, a chopped serrano chili, a chopped tomato, garlic, chicken stock, cilantro and to garnish, some creamy avocado. And to boot some homemade tortilla chips seasoned with Emeril's essence (this has become a staple in my pantry, I especially enjoy its flavor in burgers). While the soup packs a little heat, it also packs some veggies, a wee bit of protein, and just enough zing to make your mouth perk up.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

weekend baking.

A couple of weekends ago, I found myself in the mood to bake. I had tabbed a recipe in my recent issue of Gourmet magazine - a Raspberry Buttermilk Cake, and I was also in the mood for some homemade bread. So alas, I spend Saturday evening baking a rustic country bread (recipe from New School of Cooking) and on Sunday, I made this Raspberry Buttermilk Cake (which I brought to my small group on Monday night for devouring). The cake was moist and delicious, the raspberries enhanced this buttery cake with its sweet and tart qualities. A perfect afternoon dessert, goes especially well with coffee or tea. A light dessert, you could easily substitute the raspberries for a different berry or other fruit if you'd like. Nothing is like baking, especially bread. For me, it's always been a source of therapy. Using my hands, my energy to create a living organism (yeast that is). Yes it's timing consuming, but ever so worth it. The bread was dense, chewy and yielded a beautiful crumb. Just warm with butter, a sprinkly of kosher salt and jam made a fine late night snack. It's important to take time out and do something in life that brings you joy and pleasure, whether that takes place in the kitchen or elsewhere. Take time.

Friday, May 29, 2009


I don’t know about you but I have a slight obsession with food-related magazines. In fact quite a few years ago I started organizing and collecting recipes from the various magazines I subscribe to. Some may think it’s slightly “anal” and others may observe the genius behind my mini-obsession.

I make a concerted effort to try out new recipes and while perusing my assorted file folders, I found a recipe for Roasted Red Pepper and Fennel Soup, from a past issue of Rachael Ray’s magazine. It sounded delicious and I’ve been trying to eat more vegetables, one way or another, so I decided to give it a go.

Sometimes Rachael Ray recipes are a hit or miss, it’s really a gamble, but this gamble turned out to be rather delicious as well as nutritious. The soup consists of roasted red bell peppers, leeks, fennel, potato, chicken broth, salt, pepper, and a wee bit of heavy cream. Simple to make and soothing for your belly. It’s silky smooth texture was delightful and I was so pleased with this vegetable concoction. I will definitely keep this recipe in its rightful place.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Honorary Mexicans for a Day.

Hola amigos! I had a serious craving for some carne asada over the weekend and decided my Memorial Day would be spent honoring veterans by chowing down on some carne asada tacos and corn (Mexican style). I took my Latin inspiration from none other than Rick Bayless, author, chef, and PBS personality. I prepared a rustic roasted tomato salsa, which packed a helluva lot of heat to accompany the juicy, perfectly cooked carne asada (which I cooked my indoor grill). The carne asada (I used flank steak) marinated since morning in a garlicky ancho chile rub consisting of ground ancho chile powder, dried oregano, brown sugar, cumin, salt and pepper. Warm soft corn tortillas and guacamole turned these tacos into bites of bliss. I steamed some ears of sweet corn and doused them with a little butter, homemade mayonnaise, chili powder and squeezed some lime juice on them. The combination of sweet corn with the heat and acidity of the chili powder and lime juice, made for a dynamite explosion of flavors in my mouth. I kept tooting my own horn yesterday, mainly because it was my first attempt at salsa (THAT GOOD) and carne asada! My mouth and my belly were so happy, they were performing their own version of a "happy dance". Every meal should be so fruitful.

Monday, May 4, 2009

A Salad to Remember.

Springtime has made her "shout out loud" appearance here in Indiana and on Saturday, salad was on the brain. I already completed my bi-weekly grocery shopping excursion, but a deep seeded craving for "light and healthy" eating manifested itself and we succumbed to its calling. A trip to Fresh Market beckoned us, and together we created an interesting salad of mixed baby green lettuces, sliced red onion, diced avocado, diced mango ( a variety known as "champagne mangoes"), and toasted coconut. I dressed with a lemon viniagrette and all was well with the world.

The champagne mangoes were sweet and tart, a mild acidic flavor which danced on your tongue. They married well with the creaminess of the avocado and the sharpness of the red onion. We vacillated with the idea of topping it off with some shredded coconut, but after toasting it, I just could not resist. Knock yourself, make a salad, you won't be sorry.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Curried Coconut Lemongrass Soup.

Perhaps not the most "pretty' photograph I've taken, but it was so satisfying, that I had to share it with you! I have been venturing out more and more into the world of vegetarian cooking. It's a hit or miss out there, but Mark Bittman's, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian has proved to be very useful, so far. I adapted the recipe from his book. I added fried tofu (which I learned how to make from his book) and instead of porcini mushrooms, I used straw mushrooms, typical in many Thai soup recipes. In fact, straw mushrooms are the only "canned" mushroom I am unopposed to. One of the things I love about Thai cuisine is the play on your taste buds - sweet, sour, salty and spicy. Thai cuisine interlaces all of these unique flavors so well and I just can't seem to get enough of it. I'm an honorary Thai. The leftovers proved even tastier with the added flare of some garlic chili spice to kick up your sinuses.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

oy vey, ole!

I don’t want to admit this, but since Molly Wizenberg of Orangette can spill the beans, so can I. There are recipes that fail miserably, be it oversight on my part or a poorly written recipe. For a foodie, it’s disheartening and often the source of anger, resentment and what I’d like to diagnose as “pad thai depression” (PTD). It happened Monday night. I was giddy to try a new recipe for pad thai that I pulled out from one of my favorite food magazines. It smelled good, it looked good, and all was right with the world until I took a bite. Overpowered by sriricha sauce, my pad thai was ruined (in my book) and I sunk into some serious PTD. Like an artist disappointed with a ruined canvas, I too, take it personally when something doesn’t turn out perfectly. Classic type “A” personality, yes, but also neurotic and passionate about the kitchen? Most definitely, especially after a weekend of successful cooking!

I was too distraught to post about the PTD, but I saved the best for last. Last Friday, I made chile rellanos. Chile rellanos are one of my all-time favorite Mexican dishes and I’ve always “oohed” and “aahed” over how the mechanic’s of this delicious treat, until now. Time consuming? Yes, yes, and yes. Not only did it test my culinary skills, but also required some last minute creativity. The effort paid off as you can see.

Monday, April 6, 2009

creamy cheese tortellini with asparagus

This month's issue of Gourmet brings many tempting recipes to test. On Sunday night, I made this delectable pasta dish on what was a very rainy and dreary day. The kinda day that makes me sigh and may even cause one to frown, and carry on a "blah" disposition. It's supposed to be "spring" and here in Indiana, spring often equates wet. Rain. Thunderstorms (the coolest, I might add). We even got some snow! But this pasta dish sprung my spirits back into spring with its delicate cream sauce and tender, crisp asparagus bits. Here's an adapted version of the recipe:
Creamy Cheese Tortellini with Asparagus (Gourmet - April 2009 issue, adapted)
4 c. reduced sodium chicken broth
2 strips of lemon zest
3 sprigs of thyme (or more if you like)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 bunch of asparagus, chopped into small pieces on diagonal
2/3 c. heavy cream
2 tsp. cornstarch
1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese
1 bag of dried, refrigerated or frozen cheese tortellini
Bring together broth, zest, thyme, garlic, and pepper to a boil and reduce til 1 c. is left. This took alot longer than the "6 mins" the recipe stated.
Cook pasta according to package directions and drain.
Stir cornstarch into cream and whisk into broth until it boils and simmer for a few minutes til the sauce comes together. Add chopped asparagus and simmer until, crisp and tender, 2-3 mins. Add cooked pasta and grated cheese, stir unto well combined and heated through.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

delight of the wonton.

It's been a while since I've made wonton soup, several years in fact. I was perusing my copy of Splendid Soups by James Peterson when I stumbled on this simple recipe for wonton soup. The wonder of this recipe is not only it's simplicity, but the open door that leads to culinary creativity. I stuffed my wontons with a mixture of ground pork, spinach, garlic, soy sauce, ginger, sesame oil, salt and pepper. I also added some chopped scallions, grated carrots, and raw spinach to the broth. For extra flavor, before devouring, I added some garlic chili paste for some heat and wee splash of soy sauce! The recipe also provided for other wonton stuffings as well, salmon for example, which trips my trigger. The possibilities are endless and this recipe offers you the opportunity to be creative with what you have on hand, as opposed to buying extra ingredients you may not use.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Chana Punjabi.

Scatterbrained. That's where I am today, but over the weekend I made this lovely Indian vegetarian dish called Chana Punjabi. After reading the blog post from The Wednesday Chef, I just had to make this dish. By clicking on the link above you can access the recipe yourself, today I'm too lazy to type it out for you! Heck, at least I'm honest! Lately, I've been having problems with certain animal proteins ( I think my body is rejecting them) and I'm looking into more plant-based recipes, no I'm not completing giving up meat, but I am reducing the amount of it that I consume as a "trial". If you dig Indian food, no doubt you will enjoy this simple and satisfying meal. Chickpeas are simmered (for about an hour) in this delicious tomato-onion based sauce spiced with garam masala, turmeric, chiles, salt, pepper, and conriander. Two heaping spoonfuls over fragrant steamed basmati lunch make a delight meal, day or night.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Scary recipes out there!

Are there recipes out there that scare the bee-jeezers out of you? There are a few phantom recipes that I have the desire to make but for some reason they intimidate me. It's silly really, but the fear of the unknown awaits. Crab cakes is one of those recipes that I' ve put off making because of this "fear". Well, last night I finally conquered it! I bought the crab claw meat at Fresh Market (typically a recipe asks for lump crabmeat, but I got a good deal on the claw meat and there wasn't a significant difference in the quailty). I used Mark Bittman's recipe from How to Cook Everything and they turned out real tasty. I even made my own mayonnaise for the recipe, those who know me well know I'm not a fan of mayonnaise unless it's homemade. Go for it, call me a food snob, I dare you. I also made a mixed greens salad with slivered carrots, sauteed mushrooms, and red onion. The salad dressing was made with my secret stash of green lemon olive oil and prima balsamic vinegar from O&Co. Yeah I spent a fortune on the olive oil and vinegar on a trip back to LA almost a year ago, but it was worth every penny! Drank a nice glass of Chardonnay by Mirrassou. It paired nicely with the crab cakes - it had notes of apricots, green apple, vanilla and honey. A special treat indeed, but I'm worth it and I'm not scared of making crab cakes.....