Thursday, April 30, 2009

Mother's Day Brunch Menu

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Remember the time when your kids were still little but old enough to cook you breakfast in bed for Mother's Day? I sure do. The first thing you'd hear from the kitchen was, "It's my turn, it's my turn...Move! let ME do it...Daddy!!!" Finally, after what seemed like a week, the breakfast tray would appear,loaded up with heart shaped pancakes, a rose in a bud vase, and lots of "I love you, Mom"... "You're the best mommy in the whole wide world" cards. (Years later, the breakfast tray disappeared and you got cards with "Mom Rocks!!" or " 'Yo Dude, Happy Mother's Day!). Even though at the time I found the whole experience excruciating, what with having to sit in bed and hear my kitchen turned upside down, now I kind of miss it. It now falls on me to do the honors for my Mom and my aunts since my children live in another state and have families of their own. The way I get around it is to have a brunch where I can prepare a warm main dish the day before, together with easy to prepare or store bought side dishes. It is probably the only time of the year where I do as little as possible, so I can have some time to relax. With brunch, everybody is gone by 2:00p.m and the rest of the day is yours. Besides, brunch is also an inexpensive way to entertain or celebrate an event. In this case, you get extra brownie points from the Moms for hosting the day.

Tips

At this time of the year, it's beautiful to have things outside. If you have a yard, a porch, a deck or a balcony, set things out there. Easy to clean up afterwards too. Mimosas are easy and inexpensive drinks to have and appropriate at that time of the day. Those who don't want to get happy, can always have just the juice. Don't knock yourself out or your wallet getting a "good" Champagne. Go for something less expensive... nobody will be able to tell the difference, and they'll get the headache, not you. If you make them with freshly squeezed orange juice, you'll hit a homerun.

The fruit bowl can be anything you like, or better yet, what's good, available and on sale. Melons are great at this time of the year, both cantaloupe and honeydew; strawberries have good prices; grapes and blueberries add color. Those are my choices because they are easy to serve and look the part. Do the melon balls and clean the strawberries the night before, and early that morning, mix in the rest. Add a little Grand Marnier or orange juice, a couple of Tbs. of sugar and lots of mint. Serve in a pretty bowl and you have another dish.

Get some smoked salmon at Costco and serve with different bagels, cream cheese, red onions, capers and lemon. If you have kids at the party switch to a ham which will leave you plenty of leftovers and there's a recipe on the blog. You can make it the day before or you can go to Honey Baked Ham and buy one. Do bake some biscuits!

For your table centerpiece, get some African violets for $2.99 at your local markets, or splurge on some tulips, but get lots of them. That's it! Bring on the Moms!

Mother's Day Brunch Menu

Mimosas
Seasonal Fruit Bowl
Spinach and Pancetta Strata
Smoked Salmon, with Cream Cheese, Red Onions and Capers
Onion, Pumpernickel & Plain Bagels
OR
Baked Ham and Biscuits
Coffee & Chocolate Mints

Spinach and Pancetta Strata

Strata in Italian means layers. I made this for my granddaughter's christening brunch and everybody loved it. Take out of fridge about an hour before you cook or it will take forever in the oven.

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 ounces thinly sliced pancetta, coarsely chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 (10-ounce) box chopped frozen spinach, thawed, squeezed dry
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
8 cups cubed Italian bread, from a 1-pound loaf
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan
3 cups whole milk
10 large eggs

Heat the oil in a heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add the pancetta and saute until crisp and golden, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to a bowl. Add the onion to the pan drippings in the same skillet and saute until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the spinach and garlic. Saute over medium-low heat until the garlic is tender, about 2 minutes. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of pepper, nutmeg, and the cooked pancetta.

Place half of the bread cubes in a buttered 3-quart baking dish. Sprinkle half of the cheese over the bread, then top with half of the spinach mixture. Repeat layering.

Whisk the milk, eggs, remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper in a large bowl and pour evenly over the strata. Chill the strata, covered with plastic wrap, at least 2 hours and up to 12 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Bake strata uncovered until puffed, golden brown, and cooked through, 40 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.




The Best Home Biscuits

Pin It Whether you are having a brunch or just doing something nice for your mother, these are great and easy to make. Make sure you use White Lily flour for best results.

Ingredients

2 Cup White Lily Flour*
2 tsp. Baking Powder
1/4 tsp. Baking Soda
1 tsp. Sugar
1 Cup cold Buttermilk
8 TB. unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Preheat Oven to 475

Combine solids, combine wets and blend.Using 1/4 measuring cup, scoop batter into oven tray (Spray tray with Pam) Brush with melted butter and bake 12-14 min.

Note

White Lily flour is the best flour to make biscuits. Not all flours are created equal. Southern bleached all-purpose flours are made from the soft winter wheat that grows well in the warmer southern climate while northern all-purpose flours are made from the hard spring wheats that grow in the colder climate. Strains of soft winter wheat have less protein than the hard spring wheat and therefore southern all-purpose flours are better-suited for quick breads such as biscuits, cakes and muffins. For an in-depth and well researched article on biscuits, go to the following blog You can also find an even quicker recipe for biscuits in back of the White Lily Self-Rising Four package. No excuses!

Mimosas

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The following is an excerpt from Wikipedia on the origins of Mimosas

Mimosa IBA Official Cocktail

Type: Wine cocktail
Primary alcohol: Champagne
Served stirred
Standard garnish grenadine, cherries
Standard drinkware Champagne flute
IBA specified ingredients† three parts champagne
two parts orange juice

Preparation Ensure both ingredients are well chilled, then mix together into the glass. Serve cold.
A Mimosa is a cocktail-like drink composed of three parts champagne or other sparkling wine and two parts thoroughly chilled orange juice. It is traditionally served in a tall champagne flute with a morning brunch or to guests at weddings.

The origins of the mimosa are somewhat murky. Allegedly, the drink was invented at the Paris Ritz in 1925, although it bears a striking similarity to another cocktail, the Buck's Fizz, which was introduced in England in 1921, and named after the club in which it was first served. The Buck's Fizz is also traditionally made with champagne and orange juice, although grenadine is sometimes added as well. The name introduced in 1925 comes from the flowers of the mimosa plant, which are yellow and appear slightly frothy from a distance. In Britain, the mixture of orange juice and champagne is still referred to as a Buck's Fizz, while the term mimosa is used in the United States and in most of Europe.

While most bartenders agree that the mimosa should be served in a chilled champagne flute, the exact proportions of the drink are often debated. Some recipes call for a measurement of three parts champagne to one part orange juice, while others prefer a half and half ratio. Both ingredients should be chilled, and some bartenders also serve the drink over ice. Others hotly contest the use of ice, arguing that it dilutes the drink unfavorably. Mimosas are usually served without a garnish, although a twist of orange peel might be considered appropriate.

While a mimosa is traditionally served with champagne, sparkling wines can also be used. For guests who do not wish to consume alcohol, sparkling waters such as Perrier are also acceptable, although you may wish to use coded glasses so that inadvertent consumption of the wrong drink is avoided. In either case, the drink should still be served in a champagne flute so that the bubbles will last longer.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Monte Antico...A Poor Man's Super Tuscan

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The term "Super Tuscan" describes any Tuscan red wine that does not adhere to traditional blending laws for the region. For example, Chianti Classico wines are made from a blend of grapes with Sangiovese as the dominant varietal in the blend. Super Tuscans often use other grapes, especially cabernet sauvignon, making them ineligible for DOC(G) classification under the traditional rules.

In 1968 Azienda Agricola San Felice produced the first ever "Super Tuscan" called Vigorello, and in the 1970s Piero Antinori, whose family had been making wine for more than 600 years, also decided to make a richer wine by eliminating the white grapes from the Chianti blend, and instead adding Bordeaux varietals (namely, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot). He was inspired by a little-known (at the time) Cabernet Sauvignon made by relatives called Sassicaia, which openly flouted the rules set down for traditional wines in Tuscany. The result was one of the first Super Tuscans, which he named Tignanello, after the vineyard where the grapes were grown. Other winemakers started experimenting with Super Tuscan blends of their own shortly thereafter.

Super Tuscans have gained a lot of recognition in the last few years, and have soared in price to unprecedented levels. A bottle of the top wines, such as Ornellaia and Sassicai sells for well over $150. A few years ago, Wine Spectator featured an Itallian wine named Monte Antico as one of their "Best Buys" and ever since, I have had a bottle or two in my wine rack to accompany such everyday Italian dishes as pastas. What I like about this wine is that it has everything you could expect from a more expensive Super Tuscan. To begin with, it is a blend of Cabernet, Merlot and San Giovese. It has fruit, acid, structure, mouth feel and for a wine in this price point, it is a great introduction to wines of this style in a higher price.

When I started purchasing Monte Antico in the late 90's it was under $10. Now, with the dollar where it is, it sells for around $13. That is why it now sits where my old bottles of Ornellaia used to sit, waiting for better days. Don't over analyze it when you drink it...it's not that kind of wine, just nice and simple and a great price. A poor man's Super Tuscan indeed. You can find it at most local grocery stores nowadays, including, Milam's, where I noticed it was on sale yesterday for $10.99 and Winn Dixie stores here in Miami.

Saturday Night on the Grill...Beef Skirt Steak, Saffron & Onion Rice, Tomatoes Provencal

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On Saturday nights, when I'm not going out, I love to throw something on the grill. I guess it comes from the days when I was a commuter Mom and had to entertain clients frequently during the week. Staying at home with the family and having something on the barbecue was the real treat. Whether I'm having dinner with my mother, my daughter, or friends, Saturdays to me is the time to light the candles, eat outside and relax. A few weeks ago, I was lucky to pick up some skirt on sale and had it the first night with French fries and creamed spinach, just like my Argentinian friends. I froze the rest and last Saturday, just to vary it a little, made some yellow rice and some stuffed tomatoes which were about to turn in the refrigerator. Some leftover strawberries on biscuits I had saved in the freezer rounded up the menu. The result was another very nice and delicious meal. Just today, the flyer from my local market arrived in the mail and I noticed that skirt and tomatoes were again on sale. With that in mind, here is a recipe for this Saturday or any other night.

For two people

Skirt on the Grill

1 1/2 lb Beef skirt Steak skirt* (leftovers are great for Fajitas)
Worcestershire Sauce
Mojo marinade from Goya

Marinade for at least an hour, or overnight if you can. Light up the grill, and when it's really hot, add skirt and cook for about 4 minutes on each side.

Yellow Rice

3/4 C Rice
1 1/2 C Chicken Bouillon
1 Tb. butter
2 TB. chopped onions
A few sprigs of Saffron
Salt
Parsley

While the grill is getting hot, brown the onions in 1 TB. of butter and then add the rice and saute for about 1 minute. Add the chicken bouillon, saffron and salt and cook at a low temperature, covered, until all the water is absorbed. Add some parsley at the end.

Tomatoes Provencal

2 Tomatoes cored and drained
1 TB Butter
1/4 tsp. Herbes de Provence or Basil
1/4 tsp. Garlic minced
1TB Parmesan Cheese
Salt & Pepper
Olive Oil

While you are making the rice, core and drain two tomatoes. In a cup, melt 1 TB of butter in microwave, add 1/4 Cup bread crumbs, herbes de provence, 1/4 tsp. minced garlic, 1 TB Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper and drizzle liberally with olive oil. Set in a preheated 400 degree oven and cook for 30 minutes. Serve with a nice Malbec and don't forget to light the candles.

Cook's Note

If you cannot find Goya's Mojo marinade at your local market, go to my store and look under Grocery

*Skirt is a nice cut of meat to keep in the freezer for stir fries such as Beef with Broccoli and other Chinese dishes

Friday, April 24, 2009

Sauteed Scallops in Mustard Sauce

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 I have made this recipe many, many times. It is always a success. You can make it with bay or sea scallops. A nice and inexpensive Muscadet goes well with it as well as with other shellfish.

yield: Serves 2

Can be prepared in 45 minutes or less.

Ingredients

3/4 pound sea or bay scallops
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large shallot, minced
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
2 scallion greens, cut diagonally into 1/4-inch slices (about 2 tablespoons)

White Rice

Preparation

Pat scallops dry and season with salt and pepper. In a 10-to 12-inch non-stick skillet heat oil over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking and sauté scallops 1 to 2 minutes on each side (depending on size), or until golden and just cooked through. Transfer scallops with tongs to a plate and keep warm, covered loosely.

In oil remaining in skillet cook shallot over moderate heat, stirring, until softened. Add wine and boil, scraping up brown bits, 1 minute. Stir in water and mustard and simmer until reduced to about 1/4 cup. Add butter and swirl skillet, returning skillet to heat as necessary, until butter is just incorporated into sauce. Season sauce with salt and pepper.

Spoon sauce onto a small platter or 2 plates. Top sauce with scallops and sprinkle with scallion. Serve scallops with white rice.

Transfer Your Shopping Skills to the Grocery Store

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If you have to be on a budget, you don't want to live in Manhattan right now. Every Thursday, I receive by email a copy of the week's specials at nearby grocery stores. What you can save, if you pay attention, is amazing. This week, rib lamb chops at the Coral Gables Milam's are $8.99, versus $16.99 on sale at the Food Emporium in Manhattan. A 1 lbs. box of strawberries is $1.99 in Miami and $3.00 in New York City, on special. Rib eye steaks are $7.99 at my daughter's Kroger in Atlanta and $6.99 at Milam's here in Miami. I didn't even bother to check in Manhattan.

Since meat is the most expensive item on a weekly budget, I try to do my shopping where the sales and the quality are best. Everything else is not going to make a big difference, except for cleaning supplies which you can always get at Costco or one of the wholesale clubs. The reason I have been featuring Milam's here in Miami is simply that their meats and produce are tops and recently, they have been having incredible promotions to attract customers. In this economy, every market in the country is doing the same thing, so place close attention where you shop.

One of the first things you should do is look up your favorite grocery stores online, and take a look at what is on special before you go on a shopping expedition. You will save a lot of money and eat better for it. If you are not a techie, look for special circulars in your local paper. They usually come out on Thursdays. I never paid any attention to circulars or specials, just shopped on a whim, but at times like these, you need to plan ahead and be very creative. For me it is actually a lot of fun, as I have been resuscitating old recipes and trying new ones which I will be sharing with you.

If you happen to be in the Miami area and have a Milam's nearby, go get some Bottom Round Roast for $2.49 lbs and make the Yankee Rot roast which I posted last week. Buy some Rib Eye steaks for your Saturday Night on the Grill dinner, fresh salmon steaks for $5.99/lbs and my favorites... bay scallops for $4.99/lbs. The latter, although previously frozen, are very good. Just cook them the same day you buy them and do not refreeze. You can also ask them to go to the back for some frozen ones if you want to stick them in the freezer. The bay scallop season is not until September, but who can wait? Oh, and don't forget some strawberries, for a Strawberry Shortcake. If you don't want to go through the trouble, get some sponge cake cups and some ice cream and you are all set for dessert.

Let's face it, we can't go to the Mall anymore so why not transfer your shopping skills to the grocery store? I have.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Its Earth Day!...What's in Bloom Around my Garden

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Okay, so you guys in the Northeast are basking around your tulips, azaleas, and cherry blossoms. I'll see you that and raise you Vandas, Dancing Lady orchids, and Frangipanis. Never mind our gardenias and jasminw, which are also in full bloom. So there!

 
 

 
 


 

Dinner from the Market....Eggplant Parmigiana

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Spring is a great time to visit your local farmers markets, whether you live in New York, Miami or California. Just last week, I went to a new one in Miami's Design District, but every Saturday and Sunday there are markets all over the country with fresh and organic fruits and vegetables. You learn a lot when you go to the market...market people love to talk about things they grow. Last week, they had 5 varieties of eggplants, amongst them Sicilian, which I had never cooked or tasted. Boy, was I in for a big surprise! It tasted wonderful and very different from the regular Italian variety we are all used to. More aristocratic, shall we say, and much softer. Whether you buy Sicilian, Italian,or Grafitti, take advantage of the wide selection you find at your local farmers markets and try some new varieties of your favorite vegetables. You will be pleasantly surprised. I made the following recipe with Sicilian eggplants and it tasted quite different, and much better, than the one I usually make. It's an adaptation of Mario Batali's recipe, Parmigiana di Melanzane.


Prep time: 45 min (if you have to make the sauce) Cook 25 min

Serves 4

Ingredients
2 pounds (about 2 medium-sized) eggplant
Salt
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup fresh bread crumbs, seasoned with 1/4 chopped fresh basil leaves and 1/4 cup pecorino
2 cups Basic Tomato Sauce, recipe follows
1 pound ball fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Wash and towel dry the eggplant. Slice the eggplant horizontally about 1/4-inch thick. Place the slices in a large colander, sprinkle with salt and set aside to rest about 30 minutes. Drain and rinse the eggplant and dry on towels.

In a saute pan, heat the extra-virgin olive oil until just smoking. Press the drained eggplant pieces into the seasoned bread crumb mixture and saute until light golden brown on both sides. Repeat with all of the pieces. On a cookie sheet lay out the 4 largest pieces of eggplant. Place 2 tablespoons of tomato sauce over each piece and place a thin slice of mozzarella on top of each. Sprinkle with Parmigiano and top each with the next smallest piece of eggplant, then sauce then mozzarella. Repeat the layering process until all the ingredients have been used, finishing again with the Parmigiano. Place the pan in the oven and bake until the top of each little stack is golden brown and bubbly, about 15 minutes.

I had tomato sauce in the freezer, which I defrosted in the microwave, and used in this recipe. I made dinner in no time. That is why I recommend keeping some frozen for quick meals like these. If not, you will find it below:

Basic Tomato Sauce:

1/2 Cup extra virgin olive oil
8 cloves garlic peeled
1 box Pomi Crushed tomatoes(or one 35 oz San Marzano tomatoes seeded and lightly crushed, with their liquid

Salt
1/2 tsp. sugar
Crushed hot red pepper (go easy! unless you like it hot)
10 fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces

Heat the oil in a 2 to 3 quart saucepan over medium heat. Whack the garlic with the flat side of a knife, add it to the oil, and cook until lightly browned, about 2 minutes.

Carefully slide the tomatoes and their liquid into the oil. Bring to a boil and season lightly with the salt, sugar and red pepper. Lower the heat so the sauce is at a lively simmer and cook, breaking the tomatoes with a whisk or a spoon (if you got the can of whole tomatoes) until the sauce is chunky and thick, about 20 minutes. Stir in the basil* about 5 minutes before the sauce is finished. Taste the sauce and season with salt and red pepper, if necessary. Set aside

This sauce holds 1 week in the refrigerator or up to 6 months in the freezer.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Harvard Beets...Be Adventurous!

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When you ask people if they like beets, the first thing they do is wrinkle their nose. But when you serve them as a fait accompli, they say, "ah, yes, I haven't had these in a while". Somehow, beets are pretty low on the totem pole. We don't look for them like we do carrots, spinach and even broccoli. If we see them, they don't register. I guess they are kind of intimidating to most. When I don't know what to do with a vegetable or anything else, the first thing I do is go to the Joy of Cooking. They always have a good recipe for whatever you want to make. This recipe, on the other hand, is an adaptation of an old recipe of my grandmother's. She served everything, and God forbid we didn't eat it.

To cook beets, all you have to do is boil them in plenty of water until they are done. Medium size beets should take about 40 minutes. The big one I got at the market took almost an hour. Use a fork to test. Peel and cool slightly. It's that simple. If you want them in a salad, just cool and add oil and vinegar. They are great with goat cheese on a green salad too.

Harvard Beets

Yield: Serves 6

12 medium-sized cooked beets whole or cut up
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon cornstarch flour
1-1/2 cups water from the beets
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup vinegar
salt, cloves, and nutmeg

Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat. Blend in the flour and stir in the water from the beets . Cook, stirring constantly until smooth and thick. Add the sugar and vinegar, then salt, cloves, and nutmeg to taste. When well mixed, add the beets and serve hot.

Monday, April 20, 2009

To Market...To Market - Wyndham Organic Market

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I had a wonderful day last week and it all started at the farmer's market. I have a friend who, like me, loves to eat and eat well. She's also an adventurer and is always digging up new places to eat, buy food or whatever has to do with the art of eating, dining and entertaining. Last week, she called to tell me of a new find, a farmers market which had just been given a good review by the local newspaper. Since I had just started a blog on cooking, would I like to go with her and have lunch afterwards. The morning started all wrong, with mixed signals as to what time to meet. When my day starts like that, all I want to do is go back to bed, as I know how its going to end. So, as we neared the address and I looked around the neighborhood, it confirmed my worst fears. Undaunted, my friend got out of the car and proceeded to go in. Well, am I glad I followed. Inside were the nicest two ladies,,, organic people are always nice, wonder why?... and a viandero (a Cuban vegetable grower) and the most beautiful fruits and vegetables I have seen since California. Everything was laid out neatly, and very artistically. Mangoes, beans, grapefruits, potatoes of all kinds, three kinds of eggplants, beautiful tomatoes, healthy looking herbs, onions of all varieties... I was in pig heaven! After about an hour of talking to the two nice ladies and the viandero, I walked out with a couple of grapefruits, 1 beautiful Sicilian eggplant, 2 mangoes, and the biggest organic red beet I have ever seen. All for just under ten dollars. I would have walked out with the entire store but by now Ive learned to buy with my refrigerator in mind, not with my eyes, so I don't end up throwing half the stuff away.

We ended the morning having one of the most delicious lunches I have had since I arrived in Miami, at a tapas restaurant in the Design District called Sra. Martinez. The chef and owner is Michelle Bernstein, formerly of Azul, at the Mandarin Oriental. What a nice ending to what promised to be a disastrous day... I guess sometimes life has a way of surprising you... in a nice way, for a change.

Do try to go to the farmers markets in your area, particularly at this time of the year. It will open your eyes and palate to new varieties of fruits and vegetables and you will cook and eat better for it.

The Market Company, 4127 NW 2nd. Ave, Just west of the Design District, Tues-Fri. 10-4

Friday, April 17, 2009

Strawberry Shortcake

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Now that strawberries are in season and on sale at most local markets, make this for dessert and you will wow everyone. It is a very nice dessert to accompany a Spring dinner and you can make the biscuits a couple of days before.


.Yield: 10 biscuits

Ingredients

4 pints strawberries, lightly rinsed, hulled and halved

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon sugar

2 cups heavy (whipping) cream

1 tablespoon sugar

6 shortcakes (see recipe below), for serving

6 whole strawberries, for garnish



Shortcakes:

2 cups self-rising flour

2 1/2 tablespoon sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

3/4 cup milk

2 tablespoon heavy (whipping) cream


Preparation:

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease a baking sheet.

2. Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a bowl.

3. Add the butter. Using a pastry blender or your fingers, rub it into the dry ingredients until mixture resembles a coarse meal. Stir in the milk until a very soft dough is formed. Do not overwork.

4. Drop the dough in 6 equal portions onto the prepared baking sheet. Lightly pat the dough into rounds—3 to 3 1/2 inches in diameter—and lightly brush the tops with the cream.

5. Bake the shortcakes in the center of the oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.


For the Strawberries:

1. Place strawberries in a bowl. Sprinkle with lemon juice and sugar, then gently toss with a rubber spatula. Let rest for 1 1/2 to 2 hours for juices to develop.

2. Just before serving, whip cream with 1 Tbsp sugar until it holds soft peaks.

3. To serve, slice off the top third of each shortcake. Place the bottoms on 6 dessert plates and top with 1/3 cup of the prepared berries and juice, plus a spoonful of whipped cream. Cover with the top. Spoon over more berries and juice, then dollop with whipped cream. Garnish each with a whole berry and drizzle with any remaining juice.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Irresistible Clam Dip

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If you are casually entertaining for Sunday dinner with a Yankee Pot Roast, you may want to make a clam dip for a simple and easy to make appetizer. It goes well with the theme. Children and young adults love it. The flavor is at its best when made a day ahead.


1 clove cut garlic
1 6.25 oz. can minced clams, drained
1/4 cup clam juice drained from clams
1 8 oz. pck. cream cheese, softened
1 TB sour cream
2 tsp.s lemon juice
2 tsps. grated onion
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 TB. fresh chopped parsley
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper

Before mixing ingredients, lightly rub serving bowl with garlic. Combine remaining ingredients in a bowl and chill for at least 3 hours or more.

Good served with corn chips or potato chips.

Clam Dip on Foodista

A New England Dinner...Yankee Pot Roast

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Having lived in New England for most of my life, every once in awhile I get the urge to have something that reminds me of that happy time. On Sundays, particularly when it was snowing, I would dig out my old copy of the Yankee Magazine Cookbook and turn to one of my favorite recipes for pot roast. Picture this, snow falling heavily outside, the fireplace going, the TV turned to an old favorite movie and the smell of rum and horseradish permeating the air. Now that I'm in Florida, I usually wait for a cold spell or turn the air conditioning down to 60. I still haven't figured a way to turn on the snow.


It is April already, and a Wednesday to boot, but I have a favorite uncle who dies for this recipe and has made a request...so we will sit amongst the palms, with the smell of gardenias and jasmine and imagine its cold outside and its just another Sunday in New England. In all seriousness, you can make this any time, but it tastes much better and warms the soul particularly in the winter. I have made a couple of changes to make the original even better. Please read the cook's note at the end before making it.

Half-Way House Yankee Pot Roast

3-4 pound bottom round roast
2 cloves garlic
4 tablespoons butter
salt
flour
1 large onion, sliced
12 whole peppercorns
12 whole allspice
1 bay leaf, crumbled
1 tablespoon grated horseradish
1/2 cup good dark rum
1/2 cup beef bouillon
Kitchen Bouquet
Small whole carrots, or larger carrots quartered

Mash the garlic and sauté in the butter. Rub the meat with salt and flour and brown it well on all sides in the butter. Lay the meat on a bed of thin-sliced onion in a large Dutch oven or any pot with a tight-fitting lid. Add the butter, the spices and seasonings and pour the rum over the meat. (A good pot roast will supply most of its own juices, but as it cooks pour the 1/2 cup of beef bouillon over it to make an ample supply of gravy). Cover tightly and simmer for 3 or 4 hours until the roast is tender. This may be done either in the oven or on the back of the stove. If you want carrots with the pot roast, add them to the pot for the last 45 minutes of cooking. About 5 minutes before the end, add a few drops of Kitchen Bouquet. When the roast is done, remove it to a hot, round platter and surround with the carrots. Stir the gravy until smooth, correcting the seasoning if necessary. Pour it over the roast; if fresh dill is available, you may add some. I don't, but it's up to you. Serve with mashed potatoes.

Cook's Note

Don't' get anything but bottom round roast. It is the best cut of meat for this dish. Roast is done when you pierce the meat with a fork and it almost goes through it. Ovens and stoves vary so use your discretion. Do try to use dark rum, although in a pinch you can use white. It does make a difference. Jamaican rum is the best, but Bacardi is excellent. At the end if the sauce is runny, dissolve a tsp. of flour in hot water and add to gravy. Do not miss adding a few drops of Kitchen Bouquet, it does make a difference. And make sure you make it exactly as the recipe calls for. The blend and aroma of all the ingredients is unbelievable...You will think of Yankee clippers and Nantucket!

Mashed Potatoes

If you are entertaining informally for Sunday dinner, make your regular mashed potatoes with butter and milk and add 2 eggs. Transfer to a souffle or casserole dish and bake at 325 for 40 min. This keeps you from having to make the mashed potatoes at the last minute, plus it makes them rather special.

What's for dessert? Try an Apple Crisp!

Britain's Got Talent...An Unexpected Audition

Pin It Even though this blog is about cooking and entertaining, sometimes I will post things that I think will just make you feel good without opening your mouth. In the middle of the current economic times, when there is so much negative news on the networks, its nice to wake up to something that just makes you smile. On Monday it was Bo and the pirates. This morning it was Susan Boyle, an unemployed 47 year old from the UK. Go listen to her audition tape on Britain's Got Talent. It will make you smile until my next post!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A tale of Two Soups...Split Pea Soup and Potage St. Germain

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Remember the ham bone I told you to save? Depending on your mood and the occasion,here are two wonderful soups to make from your leftovers...Green Pea Soup Yankee style and its French cousin, Potage St. Germain. The latter is Andre Soltner's recipe from the famous and now defunct Lutece in New York City. I had the pleasure of dining at this restaurant for my husband's 40th birthday. Even though we did not have this soup, I will never forget the menu, which, amongst other things, included the tenderest venison I have ever tasted.

The first recipe is an adaptation from Yankee Magazine and is your typical American green pea soup. I make it so often that my book is split in two at this page.

Split Pea Soup

1 lb green split peas
3 quarts water
1 meaty ham bone
2 medium onions, sliced
1 clove garlic
parsley and thyme, 1 sprig each
2 tsps. salt
peppercorns
bay leaf
1 carrot, sliced
1 parsnip, sliced
1 rib celery. sliced
1 cup white wine

Soak the split peas overnight and drain. Put the peas in a large pot with water, the ham bone, and all other ingredients, except the white wine. Simmer on back of the stove for 2 hours or so,stirring occasionally. Remove the bone, cut off the meat and return meat to soup. Add the wine and simmer for 15 minutes.


Potage Creme St. Germain, Lutece

1/2 lbs. split peas
4 Tb. unsalted butter
2 oz smoked bacon, diced (I use ham when I have leftovers from a good smoked ham)
1 medium white onion, sliced
1 leek, white part only, cut in 1/4 in slices
1 carrot, peeled, cut in 1/4 in. pieces
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
1 bouquet garni(parsley, thyme bay leaf, tied with white string
salt
pepper
3 slices white bread, crusts removed, cut in 1/4 in cubes
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp chervil leaves

Wash the split peas in several changes of cold water. Then soak them in cold water for 2 hours. Drain and set aside.

In a large saucepan, melt 2 TB. of the butter. Add the bacon or ham and saute over medium heat for 4 minutes. Add the onion, leek, carrot, garlic and saute over low heat for 3 more minutes.

Add the split peas and 1/2 quarts of water. Add the bouquet garni, salt and pepper. Bring to boil, and simmer over low heat, covered, for 1 1/2 hours.

While the soup is simmering, melt the remaining 2 TB of butter in a skillet and saute the croutons until golden brown. Drain on paper towel and set aside.

When the soup has cooked, remove the bouquet garni, puree the soup in a soup processor or blender (about 2 min) and pass through a fine sieve. Return soup to pot and bring to a simmer. Stir in the cream, add salt and pepper, stir in chervil and serve with the croutons.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Melon con Prosciutto Ousteau de Beaumaniere

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Overlooking one of the most beautiful villages in the world, sits one of the best restaurants in France, Ousteau de Beaumaniere, owned and run by Jean Andre Charial and his wife, Genevieve. The restaurant and the inn are both members of the Relais & Chateaux group. The village of Les Baux is surrounded by a half eroded citadel on top of a cliff that is lit every night and can be seen from the restaurant and every room at the inn. It is, indeed, a magical experience.

The first time I had a glass of Muscat de Beaumes de Venise was at Ousteau de Beaumaniere. Most people spend the night at l'ousteau after a glorious dinner at the restaurant. I got to spend a week. I was in the middle of a very difficult assignment, driving a client through France, staying at the best hotels, eating at the best restaurants and getting paid for it. On or about the fourth day of my stay, I couldn't entertain the idea of another superb lunch or dinner, so I ordered melon with prosciutto as a light snack. What I got was no ordinary melon and no ordinary prosciutto. At that time, the melons from nearby Cavaillon were in season and they were like honey, and I'm sure the prosciutto that accompanied it was the best Parma had to offer. But what was unforgettable was the small glass of a sweet wine that was offered in a silver tray as an accompaniment to the melon and prosciutto. Not being one to turn anything down, especially wine or food, I accepted. I have never forgotten the moment when that nectar flowed down my throat. I was utterly speechless. My heart stopped..my pulse raced... all the usual things happened. Days later, upon my return to the States, I couldn't wait to have a luncheon and impress my friends with this fantastic combination. The result..there is always a small bottle of Muscat de Beaumes de Venise in my wine rack, waiting for a good melon. As luck would have it, this afternoon was it. Our cantaloupes are now in season and even though they may not taste exactly like the ones from Cavaillon, they still merit a bottle of Muscat de Beaumes de Venice. This makes for a beautiful and simple starter for a lunch party, especially one by the pool. You can find the wine at any good wine store in your area. Make sure it is well chilled.


I also recommend that with prosciutto at $25/lb, you go to Costco and buy it there for half the price. Believe me, it won't go to waste. Think of paninis with prosciutto and whatever cheese strikes your imagination.


I have returned to Baumaniere only once since that experience. Even though I only stayed for lunch and the melons from Cavaillon where not in season, it was still a magical experience.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter!

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The breathtaking explosion of color at Augusta National this weekend can only be rivaled by the smell of gardenias and jasmin, which are now in bloom here in South Florida. I guess God knew what he was doing. Happy Easter, everyone!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Easter Sunday...Planning the Menu, Tallying the Guests

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Easter Sunday is one of my favorite holiday menus. I don't have to think much about it, or make too many choices, as it usually revolves around a baked ham or a leg of lamb. In my family, we usually have a late lunch, and that makes it easy to go with the ham. Besides, a ham is more informal, more economical, and less work. There are many other occasions to have lamb, including Christmas Eve dinner, so the choice for this holiday is fairly easy. Now, the big question is which ham and who is going to make it. As you can imagine, coming from a family of gourmet cooks, everybody's ham is the best ham, so choosing a recipe presents the biggest challenge of the whole enterprise. Whatever the recipe, I don't have to worry much about the ingredients, as they are fairly basic and most are sitting in my pantry.

To me, Easter is all about deviled eggs,baked ham, asparagus or new baby peas, strawberries and coconut cake. With that in mind, here is what I am going to make this year. The menu is for 12 people

Easter Lunch Menu

Asparagus or Petite Peas with Onion
Strawberry Salad Glace
Home Biscuits


For this holiday, your best bet is to shop at Publix, where most of the ingredients are on sale, including leg of lamb, if that's your choice, and fully baked hams for $1.39.lb.

,

Wines for Easter Lunch...Think Fruity

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A couple of weeks ago, I published a blog on two wines from Sherry-Lehman. If you happened to get the rose I mentioned and the weather this Easter is hot in your area, the Chateau Romassan from Domaines Ott would be, hands down, my first choice. That, or any other French rose, would be a heavenly choice for cocktails with your deviled eggs or the entire meal. For the main course and beyond, you have several choices. You have to remember that there are a lot of things going on with this meal. The smokiness and saltiness of the ham and the sweetness of some of the other dishes, all make it a challenge to choose a wine. But do not despair. Help is on the way. Since ham's primary flavor is salt, the key to matching a wine to ham is to put the fruit back in. I recommend softer, fruit-driven and less tannic or less acidic wines. As far as a red wine is concerned, the first wine I would recommend is a Malbec from Argentina which has enough bold fruit to stand up to the ham's bold flavors but also the depth that is needed for a really satisfying wine pairing. Second on the list would be a Beaujolais, such as a Fleurie or Broully, which goes well with everything thanks to its pleasing fruitiness, low tannins, and vibrant acidity. Lastly, for all of you wine aficionados, the ultimate wine pairing would be a nice delicately sweet German Riesling with lots of underlying acidity which will cut through the richness of the ham, while providing a nice counterpoint to the saltiness. Whatever you do, do not get a very dry wine, because this menu, particularly the ham, is murder on any dry wine, white or red.

Deviled Eggs

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There are a million combinations for deviled eggs, from capers and tarragon, to plain old paprika and mustard. Experiment with what you like, and make them you own. In the meantime, try these. For big holiday meals such as this, I go light on hors d'oeuvres, but for Easter, I like to pass these around just before we sit down for lunch.

Ingredients

12 large eggs
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 1/2 to 2 teaspoon Dijon mustard or Durkees Famous Sauce
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
Salt
Special equipment: a pastry bag fitted with 1/2-inch star tip (optional)
Garnishes: paprika, chopped fresh chives or Parmesan cheese

Directions

Cover eggs with cold water by 1 1/2 inches in a 3-quart heavy saucepan and bring to a rolling boil, partially covered. Reduce heat to low and cook eggs, covered completely, for 1 min. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, 15 minutes. Transfer eggs with a slotted spoon to a bowl of ice and cold water to stop cooking and let stand 5 minutes.

Peel eggs and halve lengthwise. Carefully remove yolks and mash in a bowl with a fork. Add mayonnaise, mustard, and cayenne and stir with fork until smooth, then season with salt and pepper. Fill pastry bag with yolk mixture and pipe into egg whites. I like mine garnished with Parmesan cheese and paprika on top, but the choice is yours.

Mrs. Adam's Baked Ham

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The Adams family (not the ones from the tv show!) used to be our next door neighbors and my parents' closest friends while we lived in Fairfield, Connecticut in the 1960's. So close, that Mr. Adams is my daughter's godfather.

In those days, we had a lot of respect for our elders and didn't dare call adults anything but Mr. & Mrs. until told otherwise. I was never told otherwise. This was Helene Adam's recipe and the one I make on most Easters. It is simple and delicious, a typical Yankee ham! I usually get a 14-16 lbs. ham when I'm entertaining 12 people, so I can have enough leftovers for sandwiches and green pea soup.

Most hams, although fully cooked, still need a gentle baking for maximum tenderness and flavor, so plan ahead.

1 fully baked ham 14-16 lbs.
About 25 cloves
1 1/2 to 2 C brown sugar
2 TB bread crumbs
1-2 TB orange juice
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
Dash of Bourbon (this is my contribution)

Wrap ham in tinfoil and cook at 325 degrees for 2 hours.(for a smaller ham cook less time depending on weight) Take out, remove foil and crisscross ham. Make sure you crisscross through fat only. Place cloves where diamonds meet. Mix the rest of the ingredients and spread over the ham. If you are using a "dash" of Bourbon, cut back on the orange juice. You don't want it too runny. Return to the oven without the foil and with the fat side up and bake at 325 for 1/2 to 3/4 hour. With a spoon, baste the ham frequently. Let rest for at least 30minutes.

If you are serving the next day, spread glace all around and wrap in tin foil.  Remove from refrigerator a couple of hours before serving..

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Strawberry Salad Glace aka Strawberry Jello Mold

Pin It So, we've had the first spat among the chefs...all this over a jello mold. This is what happens when you try to steal someone else's recipes, particularly if that person is your mother. First of all, I'm told, its not a jello mold, it's a Strawberry Salad Glace. Secondly, great cooks love to use the words around and more or less so translating this into a viable recipe can be an excruciating situation. But I persevered because easy strawberry jello molds are the perfect way to add color and taste to a holiday lunch or a buffet.

Growing up, I remember that my mother and aunts would spend hours (even days) planning their holiday menus with great care. More often than not, they would include an easy strawberry jello mold or aspic. These were easy to prepare, colorful, added an attractive element to the holiday table, and were tasty to boot!

When I entertain, particularly on holidays, I often imitate the meals I remember as a kid. Although my style of entertaining may be different from that of my mother and aunts, when it comes to Easter Sunday, I'll often take their cue and include a jello mold.

Here is my mother's and my favorite, easy to prepare, strawberry jello mold recipe, aka Strawberry Salad Glace.

This recipe serves 6-8 people. Double it for 12

Ingredients

1 6 oz pkg. strawberry jello
1 lg. pkg. fresh strawberries sliced (Save some whole for garnish)*
4 oz cream cheese
1 2.50 oz pkg. of walnuts, crushed very fine
Miracle Whip
Mint for garnish
A gelatin mold with a whole in the middle

Prepare gelatin according to directions, dissolving in 2 C boiling water and stirring 2 minutes until dissolved. Stir in 2 Cups of water. Cool. Make small balls of cream cheese and roll them in the crushed walnuts. Oil the mold and pour half the jello into the mold. Add some of the sliced strawberries and some of the cream cheese balls, spacing them slightly. Put the mold in the refrigerator. When the jello is almost set, take out, pour the rest of the gelatin into the mold and add the rest of the strawberry slices and cheese balls. Place back in the refrigerator to set completely. This can be made the day ahead. If you are transporting the mold to another house, I would wait and unmold it there. Before you serve, adorn the center with whole strawberries and place a few dollops of the Miracle Whip around the plate, alternating with whole strawberries and mint leaves.

*you can use frozen strawberries in the off season

Cook's Note

The above picture is not the real picture as I have not made this in years. I will post the actual picture after we make it on Friday

Scalloped Potato Gratin

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This recipe is an adaptation of Julia Child's Gratin Jurassien which does not have paprika and uses Swiss Cheese instead of Gruyere. Both recipes are terrific.

yield: Makes 12 servings
active time: 30 min
total time: 1 3/4 hr

Ingredients

1/2 tsp. paprika
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
4 pounds large boiling potatoes (about 6 fairly large)
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 Cups Parmeggiano Reggiano or Gruyere

Preparation

Preheat oven to 300°F with rack in upper half. Generously butter a 10 to 12" shallow baking dish no deeper than 2 inches.

Peel and thinly slice potatoes. Smear 1 tablespoon of the butter in the baking dish. Arrange layers of potatoes in it, seasoning each layer with salt, pepper, paprika, cheese and dots of butter. End with a sprinkling of cheese and butter dots. I usually do not make more than two layers.

Warm the cream in the microwave or on top of the stove and pour over potatoes, pressing down gently to submerge potatoes in liquid. Place in the middle level of a preheated oven and bake for 1 to 1 1/4 hours. The gratin is done when the potatoes are tender, have absorbed the cream and the top is lightly brown. I usually raise the heat to 350 the last half hour to ensure they are nice and bubbly.

Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Easter Egg Nest Cupcakes

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Let me tell you early on in this relationship that I am not a baker. I love to eat desserts, but not to make them; therefore, most of my desserts are someone else's recipe, with the exception of a couple of very good ones to be posted later. Fortunately, though, I have a fabulous baker in the family, my daughter Christina, whose cookies are legendary and much sought after. Perhaps, one of these days, she can make a guest appearance on the blog. That is not to say, that I cannot pick them out. A good and experienced cook can read a recipe and tell right away what is going to work and what is not. I think I have that talent. All of this rambling around is to tell you that the following recipe is not my own. It is from Williams Sonoma's Easter desserts and they are yummy and very original. They are simple to make and I think they'll make a splash at your table. As an old boss of mine used to say..why reinvent the wheel?

Toasting the coconut that forms the nests adds a natural straw color as well as a pleasant crunch and nutty flavor to these whimsical cupcakes. Easter egg candies come in many different sizes; use as many as will comfortably fit in each nest.

Cupcakes

Ingredients:

3/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/4 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 cup sour cream

2 Tbs. vegetable oil

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

3/4 cup sugar

6 Tbs. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 eggs, at room temperature

Vanilla buttercream for frosting cupcakes (see related recipe at left)

Easter egg candies for decorating


Directions:

Preheat an oven to 350°F. Spread the coconut on a baking sheet and toast until lightly browned, about 8 minutes.

Line a standard 12-cup muffin pan with paper or foil liners.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl, stir together the sour cream, oil and vanilla. In another bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together the sugar and butter on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the sour cream mixture in 2 additions, beating until just combined; scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups, filling each about three-fourths full. Bake until the cupcakes are lightly golden on top and a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Then transfer the cupcakes to the rack and let cool completely, about 1 hour.

Frost the cupcakes with the buttercream. Top each cupcake with a ring of toasted coconut. Place an Easter egg candy (or candies) in the center of each nest and serve. (The finished cupcakes can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 days; bring to room temperature before serving.) Makes 12 cupcakes.

Adapted from Cupcakes, by Shelly Kaldunski (Weldon Owen, 2008).

Buttercream Frosting

Use this fluffy frosting to decorate cakes and cupcakes or as a filling for baked goods. The frosting can be flavored in a variety of ways, including chocolate (see related recipe at right).

Ingredients:

6 cups confectioners’ sugar

16 Tbs. (2 sticks) unsalted butter

4 1/2 Tbs. milk, plus more, if needed

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/4 tsp. salt

Food colorings (optional)


Directions:

Have all the ingredients at room temperature.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, combine the confectioners’ sugar, butter, the 4 1/2 Tbs. milk, the vanilla and salt and beat on low speed until combined, about 1 minute. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Increase the speed to medium and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes.

If the frosting is dry, add more milk, 1 tsp. at a time, until it is creamy but still holds peaks. Tint with food coloring as desired. Makes about 4 cups.

Williams-Sonoma Kitchen.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

And on the Seventh Day...She Rested

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Lindaraxa's kitchen is closed today. So turn off the stove, go out to dinner and get ready for Easter Sunday next week. Yes, you guessed it, we are going to have ham so you can start doing your shopping as early as tomorrow. When I was at Costco last week, I noticed Martha Stewart was "designing" hickory smoked hams for them under their Kirkland brand. Check them out. I have not tried them, but anything that she or Kirkland puts out is always good. Have a nice Sunday, I'll see you tomorrow.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Saturday Night on the Grill...Lamb Chops with Red Potatoes and Sour Cream

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Lambs chops are one of my favorite meals and when we play "What would you have for your Last Supper?" this is one of the top candidates on my list! With mint jelly, of course. I picked up 4 yesterday at Milam's on sale for $8.99/lbs.



Marinade


4 loin lamb chops
Olive oil
Rosemary sprigs
Dijon mustard
Worcestershire Sauce
Sea Salt
Black Pepper

Rub the mustard on first so that the Rosemary adheres to the chops. Add a few drops of Worcestershire Sauce, sea salt, pepper and rosemary. Drizzle with olive oil and marinade for at least 1/2 hour.

Light your grill and when its very hot, cook lamb chops about 5 min on each side for medium rare, depending on thickness. Let rest for about 10 minutes. Don't forget the mint jelly!

Red potatoes with Sour Cream and Parsley

6 Red potatoes
2 TB. unsalted butter
2 TB. sour cream
Sea Salt
Black Pepper
Chopped fresh parsley

While you are lighting the grill and cooking the lamb chops, boil the potatoes in salted water for about 30 minutes. When they are done, drain, cut in 1/2, return to the pan, set in low and add the butter, sour cream, parsley, salt and pepper. Serve.

For a vegetable, I suggest fresh asparagus, which are in season and also on sale. These don't need any embellishment as you already have a butter and sour cream sauce in the potatoes.

Lemon Tarragon Chicken Salad

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If you are still working off the roast chicken and don't want to make chicken croquettes, here's a great idea for Saturday lunch. You can serve on a bed of lettuce or in a sandwich.

3 cups chopped chicken breast, skinless

1 cup finely chopped celery
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
2 C seedless red grapes cut in 1/2
1/2 C chopped walnuts or pecans
2 cups thinly sliced romaine lettuce



Mix celery, mayonnaise, onion, tarragon, lemon juice, and lemon peel in large bowl to blend. Cut chicken into 1/2-inch cubes; stir into mayonnaise mixture. Add grapes and pecans if desired. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 4 hours ahead. Cover; chill.) Serve with a small bunch of red grapes on the side.

For Sandwiches

Arrange 6 bread slices (I use 7 grain)on work surface. Spread with 3 tablespoons mayonnaise. Divide salad among bread slices. Top each with lettuce and second bread slice. Cut sandwiches in half and serve.

add your own note

Friday, April 3, 2009

Chicken Croquettes

Pin It This is, hands down, my children's, and all their friend's, favorite recipe. You can imagine how many times it has been requested ever since I mentioned I was going to do a cooking blog. It is also one of my bridge table's favorite lunch. They are rich enough to stand alone next to a nice green salad, so don't waste your time making anything else. Yes, they take time, and it takes two days to complete the process, but they are well worth it, freeze beautifully and delight everyone, including children. If you have a captive audience eager to eat your croquettes, they will volunteer to help you shape and bread them, which is the nasty part of the deal. But keep and eye on your little (and big) helpers, because as they get tired and bored, they end up shaping them like torpedoes! The original recipe is my aunt Martha's, who forgot it was her recipe until she tasted them here a few weeks ago.


1 small chicken (use white and dark meat)*
3 TB butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 small bunch of fresh parsley, chopped
Dash Worcestershire Sauce
Juice from 1/2 lemon
2 cans evaporated milk
10-12 TB flour
Salt & Pepper
3 eggs beaten
breadcrumbs
Vegetable oil

Day 1

Remove the meat from the chicken and cut up in small pieces. If you make the croquettes from yesterday's roast chicken and only ate one leg and some of one of the breast's, you will have enough meat for this recipe. Otherwise, you can buy a small roast chicken.

In a skillet, melt the butter and cook the onions until translucent. Add the parsley and cook for 1 minute. Remove from the heat. In a blender, add the chicken, the 2 cans of milk and the flour. Do this in batches, 1/2 the chicken, 1 can of milk, and half the flour. Blend until thickened and smooth. Add to the skillet with the onions. Repeat with the other half. With a wooden spoon blend the two batches into the onions and parsley. Add the lemon juice, the Worcestershire Sauce, and salt and pepper and continue to stir in medium or medium low heat. Be careful, if you see that it starts to stick to the bottom, lower the heat. You are going to stir for about 15- 20 minutes, stopping and starting again until it begins to separate from the edges and starts to bubble. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Once it is cooled, stick in the refrigerator until tomorrow, and I mean tomorrow! Mix needs to rest and cool in the refrigerator at least overnight so it will harden.

Day 2


Set up a breading station consisting of 1 bowl for the eggs, and 1 bowl for the breadcrumbs. Beat the eggs in one bowl, place about one cup of breadcrumbs in the other. Take one big soup spoonful of the dough and using your pretty little hands, shape into croquettes, pass through breadcrumbs, then the eggs and breadcrumbs again. Set aside in a cold plate. Repeat until all are shaped. I place the ones I am going to eat that night at least an hour in the refrigerator before I fry them. The rest are frozen and will yield at least two or three more meals. Freeze them in tin foil paper, in one long row, side by side. I usually make packets of eight and a couple of packets of 4 for an impromptum snack or lunch. Wrap tight.

Frying

Place about an inch of vegetable oil in a skillet and fry on all sides until golden brown. Drain in a paper towel. If they are frozen, fry straight from the freezer, but lower the heat to make sure they completely cook inside. Otherwise you will end up with beautiful croquettes on the outside but cold inside.

I hope you enjoy them as much as my family has for the last 40 years!

Ham Croquettes
Substitute 1 lbs. ham for the chicken

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Smart Way to Carve a Chicken

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There are any number of ways to carve a chicken, but the way it's done at Daniel, the famous restaurant in New York City, is particularly smart. No unlucky diner is left with a scrawny wing protion, or one that requires surgical skill to eat with a fork and knife. Each piece is an attractive, substantial portion. Here's how to do it: 1. Using a medium chef's knife, cut close to the leg at the point where the leg and breast meet, peeling the leg downward as you cut. It should detach easily. At the point where it meets the backbone, make sure to cut around the oyster, a small nugget of meat at the base of the thigh (at the point of the knife above). Repeat with the other leg. 2. Remove each breast and wing by cutting along the breastbone and carefully cutting the meat from the one. Cut through then join where the wing meets the backbone to remove the wing and breast in one piece. 3. Cut each breast in half at an angle parallel to the wing. This will give you four breast portions, two with a wing attached. 4. Separate the thigh and drumstick. Cutting with the knife parallel to the drumstick, slice through the joint. 5. Place each thigh skin side down. Following the lines of the bone, cut alongside both sides of the thigh bone, then beneath it. Pull up the small end, cut around the thicker joint, remove the bone from the meat and discard.

The Perfect Roast Chicken

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Yes, I know what you are going to say..why make one if I can buy one? Because it is an entirely different experience! This is the quintessential one dish meal, with lots of leftovers for lots of things. Besides, it has potatoes and vegetables and only one pan to clean. Chickens are now on sale for .79/lbs and this 5 lbs. chicken from Sanderson's, 100% natural, was only $4.00. Wait 'til you see what we are going to make with leftovers tomorrow.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees
Cooking time 1 hour Prep time 5 minutes

1 5 lbs. chicken
3-4 tbs. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
10 cloves garlic, mashed
1 lemon or lime
1 TB Herbes de Provence*
Sea Salt
Black Pepper
6 Red potatoes
1 small bag Baby carrots

Make sure your oven is clean, otherwise you are going to smoke your entire house. Preheat oven to 450. Cover the roasting pan with tin foil paper so you wont have to work too hard cleaning it afterwards. Take all the innards out of the chicken, saving the livers in the freezer for a later use. Wash the chicken and pat dry. Lay the chicken on the roasting pan. Mash the garlic cloves with the back of your knife and put half in cavity and rest on the pan. Cut up the potatoes in quarters and add to pan. Add the carrots. Cut the lemon or lime up in quarters, and squeeze the juice over the chicken. Stick the rinds inside the chicken. Add olive oil liberally over the chicken, the potatoes and carrots. Sprinkle herbes the provence and sea salt over the chicken and vegetables. Using your hands or a spoon, make sure vegetables are entirely covered with olive oil and the seasonings. Place in the oven for exactly 1 hour. Let sit for about 15 minutes, before you carve and serve.

Cook's Note

The chicken will turn out darker and crispier than the one in the photograph, which was taken out of the oven earlier to make for a clearer picture.

Wine Suggestion

If you really want to enjoy the experience, pick up a nice French Burgundy or Pinot Noir from California or Washington State.

*Variations: Substitute Herbes de Provence with Fresh Rosemary


Roast Chicken With Lemons on Foodista

Satisfying a yen...The Unbeatable Reuben Sandwich

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The Reuben Sandwich is unquestionably one of New York's greatest contribution to the world of eating. It was named for Arnold Reuben, owner of Reuben's Restaurant and Delicatessen located at 6 East 58th Street in Manhattan. The restaurant closed its doors in the late 1960s.

Nowadays, if you are in New York City and get a yen for a Reuben, you can go to the corner deli or a nearby coffee shop and get a fairly good one. If you live in Miami, like I do, you can always cross the bridge into Miami Beach and get a fabulous one at the Epicure Market on Alton Road. But who wants to go through all that trouble for a sandwich? I do. There are times, however, when I don't want to go through the process and seeing that I get the yen pretty often, I decided to start making them at home. It is also a treat and something different to serve to your guests for a very informal lunch by the pool. All you need to do in advance, is make sure you have a chilled stein and a cold beer as the perfect companion to the Reuben sandwich experience.

Serves 2

Butter
4 slices rye bread
1/2 lbs. corned beef
4 slices Swiss cheese
sauerkraut
Thousand Island Dressing

Preheat a large skillet or griddle on medium heat. Add some butter and lay all four slices of bread. Lay a slice of the Swiss cheese on two of the bread slices, followed by half the corned beef and the sauerkraut (drained). I like to add the Thousand Island dressing on top of the sauerkraut, followed by another slice of Swiss cheese. Top with the remaining bread slices, buttered sides out. Press the grill down or place a heavy skillet over the sandwich if you are cooking on top of the stove.

Grill sandwiches until both sides are golden brown, about 3 more minutes on each side. Serve with potato chips, dill pickle and a cold beer.

Thousand Island Dressing

2 TB mayonnaise
1 TB catsup
1/4 tsp chili sauce

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