Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Halloween Table and Menus Of Times Gone By

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Lindaraxa Photo

Halloween has always been, after Christmas, my most favorite holiday to entertain.  In years past, I did a lot of entertaining and prided myself in setting a beautiful table.  I think I thought of myself as the next Carolyne Roehm, my hero!

 I don't know how I packed so much stuff in my apartment.  There were plates and glasses and tablecloths and flower arrangements hidden all over the place!  I had quite a large archive in my brain of where everything was.  Now, as I unpack in a much larger house, I wonder how I ever did it. I don't entertain like that anymore, just don't have the stamina, or the money, for that matter.  Maybe now that I live with my daughter, the artist, I will get a second wind, but for the time being, here are some of the memories:

For the pumpkin, I usually called a kid, a nephew, a niece, a neighbor, anybody to carve the pumpkin.  Then I started to build from that. On that particular year, I was gaga over my black candles, and I was debuting my new china in orange tones I had literally carried from Gien, France.  Some raffia ribbons, lots of goodies from Marshall's, some old silver, and orange and black M&Ms  in little Halloween clay pots and poof! magic!

The menu was French (my idea of being quirky), and every year I invited only 8 people.  Small, intimate, sit down and easy to cook for. No costumes or funny drinks!  But yes, place cards, and  menu cards staggered around the table.  Champagne with cocktails for those who liked it and a good French wine with the main course.  In those days, with the dollar almost at par with the euro, it was affordable to do so.  Nowadays, it's prohibitive and a little ostentatious, if not politically incorrect!


Creme de Potiron
(Creamy Butternut Squash Soup)

Breast of Duck with Corn Cake
And Spinach Puree

Munster Avec Confiture d' Eglantine

Warm Chocolate Tart Jean Georges

That year I had gone to Alsace and come back loaded with confiture d'eglantine, a jam typical and only found in Alsace..  I really can't describe or translate eglantine, nobody, for that matter, can!.  It;s a small red fruit, not terribly sweet, loaded in vitamin C.  The taste is very hard to descibe, the only thing I can compare it to is guava...same color, but a totally different fuit.  At the hotel where we stayed, they served it with the cheese course which, in that region HAD to be Munster.  Here is a clip of eglantine confiture, in French but easy to follow.

Another year, 2002, I had just come back from Normandy and Brittany so Halloween was spent "in Normandy"


Terrine de Coquilles Saint-Jacques
Sauce Pernod

Soupe au Marrons
Creme Fraiche

Cailles Aux Figues Fraiches et Au Miel 

Puree de Poireaux

Tarte Chaude aux Pommes

Once I get settled in I will try to post some of these recipes, if I can remember the source!

Creamy Polenta With Parmigiano, Parsley and Rosemary Leaves

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This is the basic polenta recipe I make except when I serve it with the Braised Short Ribs.  In that case, I omit the rosemary. The ribs already have it, so why gild the lily. You can substitute other cheeses, such as Gorgonzola, and other herbs, such as Herbes de Provence. I try to make enough to have lefovers so I can refrigerate them and make fried polenta the next day, usually with the leftover ribs. It also freezes beautifully for future meals.


6 cups light beef bouillon
1 teaspoons salt
1 3/4 cups yellow cornmeal
3/4 cup grated Parmesan
3/4 cup whole milk
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Bring the water to a boil in a heavy large saucepan. Add 2 teaspoons of salt. Gradually whisk in the cornmeal. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the mixture thickens and the cornmeal is tender, stirring often, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Add the cheese, milk, butter, parsley, rosemary, and pepper, and stir until the butter and cheese melt. Transfer the polenta to a bowl and serve.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Braised Short Ribs...A Sunday Afternoon At The Pumpkin Patch!

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This is the kind of meal I love to serve on a Sunday, particularly when my son and his family come to visit.  If you have little  grandchildren in the family (I do!) they will eat it, particularly if it's accompanied with creamy polenta. The meat is so tender even a baby can enjoy it!

Yesterday we had a splendid afternoon at the Kinsey Family Farm in Gainesville, Georgia where we went en famille to pick up our pumpkins for Halloween.  I will be posting photos tomorrow in my other blog , My Kitchen By the Lake.  It was such fun, I had no idea there were so many varieties of pumkins.  I came home with two different ones to make puree, since I still can't seem to find it at the store.  The shortage must be for real.  When I told them what I was doing, one of the owners suggested a variety called Jardale and gave me one as a present if I promised to let him know how the pie came out.  Really nice people and a wonderful place to take the children!

If you make the ribs the day before, I suggest only cooking them for an hour the second time as they will continue cooking when you reheat them before serving.  You want the meat very tender, but you don't want them to fall off the bone!

I love my short ribs with polenta but they'll do with mashed potatoes just as well!

This is part of the Halloween Menu posted below. 

Serves 6 to 8.


6 pounds beef short ribs, cut into 1-rib pieces

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 medium onions, chopped

4 large garlic cloves, minced

1 1/2 cups dry red wine

a 28- to 32-ounce can whole tomatoes including liquid coarsely puréed in a blender

1 1/2 cups beef broth

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

six 3- by 1-inch strips fresh orange zest removed with a vegetable peeler

2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crumbled

1/2 teaspoon salt

10 ounces pearl onions (about 2 cups), blanched in boiling water 2 minutes and peeled

a 1-pound bag peeled baby carrots

Garnish: finely chopped fresh parsley leaves


Pat short ribs dry and season with salt and pepper. In a heavy kettle (at least 6 quarts) heat oil over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking and brown ribs in batches, transferring with tongs to a large bowl.

Add chopped onions to kettle and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until golden. Add garlic and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add wine, tomatoes, broth, Worcestershire sauce, zest, rosemary, and salt and bring to a boil. Add ribs including any juices that have accumulated in bowl and simmer, covered, 30 minutes.

Add pearl onions and carrots, stirring and pushing down to make sure they are covered by liquid, and simmer, covered, 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until meat is tender. Transfer meat, pearl onions, and carrots with a slotted spoon to a large bowl. Discard zest and boil braising liquid, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened and reduced to about 5 cups. Return meat and vegetables to kettle and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until heated through. Stew may be made 3 days ahead and cooled uncovered before chilling covered. Reheat stew, adding water as necessary to thin sauce.

Serve stew sprinkled with parsley.

Adapted from Gourmet Magazine

October 1995

A Casual Halloween Dinner Party by the Lake

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Obviously, this year with the move and all the unpacking still going on, there will not be a Halloween dinner party! I have, though put one together for you in case you decide to bite the bullet and invite a few friends.  Very casual, no fuss, enjoy!  The recipes have been posted recently on the blog.

A Casual Halloween Dinner Party

Serve a hearty cabernet with the meal.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Espresso Pots de Creme...Dessert In A Cup

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This is a wonderful dessert to have in your repertoire.  You can serve the pots for lunch or dinner, any time of the year.  If you serve them in fancy cups, which you can do because of the low oven temperture, you can  place a saucer underneath and kill two birds with one stone.  It will take a die hard coffee drinker to ask for a cup after these!

They go well after nearly any entree, but if you serve them on the cool side, they are great after spicy dishes such as the Lamb Tagine, The Shrimp Creole, a curry, or even the Chicken Chili.   After Haagen Daz Coffee Ice Cream, these are my favorites!

This is definitely a rich but lite dessert.  Whatever you do, dont try substituting milk for the cream.  If you must, make something else and save these for a time when you are not watching your figure!  You will be sorry if you do.


2 cups heavy cream

2 cups half-and-half

1/2 vanilla bean, split

2/3 cup sugar

1 tablespoon instant espresso

6 egg yolks

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whipped cream, for garnish (optional)

Chocolate chavings or espresso beans for garnish


Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.

Combine heavy cream, half-and-half, vanilla bean, and sugar in a 1-quart heavy saucepan. Heat over medium-low heat until mixture reaches 180 degrees F. Stir in instant espresso until dissolved.

Place egg yolks in a heat-proof bowl and temper the yolks by gradually adding some of the hot cream mixture.

Return the egg mixture to the pan with the remaining cream mixture. Stir in the vanilla. Strain custard and then ladle 5 to 6 ounces into 8 custard cups or ramekins.

Bake, covered, in a water bath for about 40 minutes or until set. Check at 30 minutes; you may need to reduce the oven temperature to 250 degrees F for the remaining 10 minutes. The centers should not be firm. They should have the consistency of creme brulee.

Cool to room temperature and then refrigerate if not serving right away. Bring to room temperature before serving. Garnish with whipped cream.

Adapted from Crescent City Coolbook

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Guest Post...The Great Canned Pumpkin Shortage...Worth The Whisk's Patti Londre to the Rescue!

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I have been hearing about a shortage of Libby's canned pumpkin puree, the one we use for our most cherished dishes at this time of the year.  Mon Dieu, what is the world coming to!

The shortage this year is a result of less-than-ideal weather conditions around Morton, Illinois where a high percentage of the canning pumpkins sold nationwide are grown.  One of Illinois newspapers The State Journal-Register, surveyed local grocery managers and was told most stores have canned pumpkin in stock now, but there is uncertainty about whether supplies will last.

Illinois is the nation’s No. 1 pumpkin-producing state. Of the state’s 13,679 acres of pumpkins, 9,749 of those acres are harvested for processing. Most of the processing is done at Libby’s in Morton and Seneca Foods in Princeville

If you cook with canned pumpkin as most of us will be doing this month and next, particularly for Thanksgiving,  you might want to buy it now (Plan A) or you might want to take a look at my friend Patti Londre's excellent food blog, Worth the Whisk for a quick and easy recipe on how to make it from scratch (Plan B).  As far as I am concerned, I plan to keep Plan B close at hand for an emergency.   There is no Thanksgiving worth attending that does not have at least one variation of pumpkin pie, my favorite and my ultimate reason for cooking the whole meal!

Canned Pumpkin Shortage? Simple Steps to Make Fresh Pumpkin Puree by Patti Londre of Worth The Whisk

Hello from Los Angeles! If you’ve just heard about the national shortage of Libby’s canned pumpkin, you aren’t alone. About a month ago, I noticed my local store had no small cans of pumpkin. A week later, still none. Then my husband showed me a newspaper article about a real shortage. Another week later, a friend circulated an email about it but by then, I had three “sugar pumpkins” to make my own supply.

Ya gotta luv the internet. My pumpkins came with a website. Which is how I discovered I’ve been making pumpkin puree the hard way all these years. Here is the easy way, below. My three punkins made 9 cups of puree.

What to make with it? Try this Light Pumpkin Custard for starters.

1. Rinse off the pumpkins, plop them on a baking sheet, roast at 350 degrees F. for 90 minutes or until tender.

2. Let cool for a while.

3. Slice in half, scoop out seeds and pulp (seed making post upcoming).

4. Peel off the rind. It’s like working with a large, super ripe avocado, so using my fingers helped not lose chunks of rind in the mash.

5. Put the meat onto a cookie sheet and mash with potato masher.

6. Scoop into freezer bags in one-cup portions.* Store up to six months in the freezer.

For additional photos on these preparation steps, CLICK HERE.

Lindaraxa's Note  Before I pack it away, I put the puree in a colander to drain the excess water.  Just set it over a pot and let it sit there for a couple of hours.  I also proceed to make the pie filling and freeze.  This is what they do at the pumpkin farm!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Chicken Chili by the Fire

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 I love Sunday nights in the Fall... a roaring fire, a good bottle of wine, the playoffs, particularly if the Yankees are playing, and a nice bowl of chili.  I am not a football fan, but if you are, this is right up your alley too.

Today was the first day this week when we didn't have rain, at long last!  We spent all day unpacking more boxes, going back and forth to Home Depot and finally making some headway settling in the new house.  On the way back from the second trip, we saw a guy selling firewood, the good kind... pine... the one that makes all those nice crackling noises. And there it was, all planets aligned.   By five o clock I couldn't wait to take a hot shower, a drink and start cooking for the big event!

Recently I've been making chicken or turkey chili, not because it's healthier...after all that goes into it, why make a big deal between beef and chicken;  but it's lighter and I enjoy it more.  It's also a great way to use leftover roast chicken.  The addition of kidney beans serves to thicken it and gives it a nice flavor but you can leave them out if you prefer.  You will notice that there is no chili powder per se, but believe me, all the components are there.  I just prefer to have control of my heat and that is done through a combination of red pepper flakes, paprika, and ground chipotle chili pepper, which is really smoked jalapeno.  It is a "cleaner" heat, where you can taste all the individual spices instead of one.  And then, of course, there is beer to round things up.  A little cheese, a little sour cream, some tortilla chips and you're ready for burp city..I mean, you're ready to watch the game and keep your fingers crossed those Yankees make it to the finals!

Serves 4


1 chopped yellow onion
3 TB good olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and large-diced
2 green bell peppers, cored, seeded, and large-diced
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp cilantro
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch chipotle chili pepper powder (ground)
Dried red pepper flakes, to taste
Kosher salt, 
1 (28-ounce) can Pomi chopped tomatoes
1/2 a broiled chicken or 2 lg chicken breasts or leftover turkey breast
Freshly ground black pepper
1 can pinto beans
6 oz. beer

For serving:
Corn chips, grated cheddar, sour cream


Cook the onions in the oil over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the bell peppers, paprika, cumin, coriander, oregano, cilantro, red pepper flakes, chipotle, and salt. Cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and cook uncovered for 25 minutes.

Add the chicken, the beans, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Halfway through, add the beer.

Correct the seasonings. Let it rest on top of the stove for a few minutes before serving to let the flavors come together.  Serve with a dollop of sour cream on top and some grated cheddar cheese.  Accompany with tortilla chips.

Cooks Note:  Heat means different things to people.  I suggest you start with a pinch of all the spices in the recipe and add according to your taste.  Don't skip any of them, it's a nice roundup, just go slow until you find the "heat" you like!

Turkey Chili: the secret here is the homemade turkey broth! I usually make turkey noodle soup at the same time and use the broth to lighten the chili as needed.  Substitute wine wine for the beer.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

In Search of...The Real Recipe for Bucatini all' Amatriciana

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It is amazing how possesive people can be about their traditional dishes. A couple of days ago, I watched Giada de Laurentis cook this dish with her aunt on her program.  It was funny, almost embarassing for poor Giada as for every step in the process, there was some criticism from her aunt...and she was not subtle about it!  They argued over the use of garlic, whether the onions should be chopped or minced, the aunt wanted vinegar addded so Giada relented with white wine, and on and on.  Mind you, they were making the Roman version of the Amatriciana original, so I can't imagine what it would have been like had it been the latter.  I think the whole region would have been up in arms.

I became some intrigued that I decided to do some research as to what the real deal and all the confusion was about.  And here is the scoop.   This zesty pancetta and tomato sauce is commonly associated with Lazio and Rome, but it is actually from the town of Amatrice, which was just over the border into the Abruzzo before Mussolini redrew the maps. The inventors were the shepherds from the region now known as Lazio, so it makes sense that the original recipe did not call for wine or garlic.  Now, the roman version is something else!

Because of the simplicity of Amatriciana sauce, be sure to use the finest ingredients. It makes a big difference especially considering that there are only a few critical ones.

And Giada de Laurentis:

Serves 4


1 pound bucatini or thick stranded spaghetti (see note)

1/4 pound (100 g) pancetta or guanciale, diced (see note)

1 pound (400 g) ripe tomatoes (4-5 plum tomatos), blanched, peeled, seeded and chopped (you can certainly use San Marzano canned)

Half an onion, minced

A hot pepper, seeded and shredded (or leave it whole if you want to remove it)

1/2 cup olive oil

An abundance (a cup) of freshly grated Pecorino Romano


Set the pasta water to heat, salt it when it boils, and cook the pasta. While this is happening, heat the oil in a skillet, add the diced meat, and cook until it browns, stirring the pieces about. Remove them to a sheet of absorbent paper with a slotted spoon and keep them warm. Add the onion to the grease in the pan, together with the hot pepper, and when it begins to color add the tomato pieces, which should be well drained. Cook, stirring, for 5-6 minutes, then return the diced pancetta to the pot and heat it through. Drain the pasta while it's still a little al dente, turn it into the skillet with the sauce, cook a minute more more, stirring the pasta to coat the strands, and serve, with grated pecorino.  You can sprinkle some parsley on top, but don't let Giada's aunt catch you!


First, Italians traditionally make Amatriciana sauce with Guanciale, salt-cured pork jowl. It is similar to flat pancetta, but not as lean, and therefore has a richer, more voluptuous feel to it. If you can find guanciale, by all means use it, though in its absence pancetta will work. Bacon is not a good substitute, because it is smoked and also contains sugar not present in either pancetta or guanciale.

Second, Amatriciana sauce derives from a much older sauce called La Gricia, which the shepherds used to make by sautéing diced guanciale so gently as to keep it from browning, and adding freshly boiled pasta, a healthy dusting of pepper, and grated pecorino Romano. The Amatriciana sauce, with tomatoes, was initially enjoyed by the nobility, because only they could afford tomatoes.

Third, the people of Amatrice prefer to use spaghetti in preparing their signature dish. The use of bucatini is more a Roman thing. The different shapes do produce different textures, and which you prefer is up to you.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Oktoberfest ...German Potato Salad with Bacon Chive Vinaigrette

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Most people recognize German potato salad because it is served warm with a slightly tart bacon dressing. The German Immigrants to the United States made this style of potato salad so people began calling it Hot German potato salad. There are versions that just use a vinaigrette dressing and are tossed and served cold.

This version uses a teaspoon of mustard to give it some tang and adds chives for color and extra flavor.

It's wonderful with pork chops!


2 pounds Yukon gold or red skin potatoes

1/2 pound thick-cut bacon

3/4 cup finely chopped onion

1/3 cup cider or white vinegar

1/4 cup sugar

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon salt

black pepper

2 tablespoons minced chives, for garnish


Place the potatoes in a medium-size pot and cover them with enough water to extend 2 inches above the surface of the potatoes. Salt the water and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Continue cooking until potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork, about 15 to 20 minutes. Drain and slice into 1/4-inch rounds.

Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once crisp, place on a paper towel-lined plate and crumble into small pieces. Pour off the rendered fat, reserving 1/4 cup in the pan. Turn the heat to medium and add the onion. Cook until translucent and just beginning to brown, about 4 to 5 minutes.

Whisk in the vinegar, sugar, mustard, 1/2 chives and salt and stir until thick and bubbly. Add some water if it is too thick.  Add the sliced, cooked potatoes and toss to coat. Top with the crumbled bacon and garnish with the rest of the chives. Serve warm.

Recipe Adapted from Mary Nolan, Food Network

Monday, October 12, 2009

Harvest Pear Crisp with Star Anise

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Although I love warm apple desserts, I prefer pears any day of the year, particularly with a touch of Pernod or anise.  Bosc pears are my choice when I'm baking, although a combination of Bosc and Comice is excellent too.  The prince of eating pears is the Comice, with its very fine texture and sweet and juicy flesh. 

Did you know that pears do not ripen well on the tree and are the only fruit that must be picked green and ripened separately?  If left to ripen on the tree they turn to mealy mush.  Pears ripen from the inside out, too, so don't wait until they are soft all over...just look for some pear fragrance and some softness at the stem end.  This is particularly true of Bosc pears.  If you wait until they're ripe all over, you will also see dark bruises.

This dessert is wonderful for a family meal, particularly Sunday dinner.  If you want to dress it up, add some dried cranberries (1/2 cup) to the fruit.  Don't forget the ice cream!

Serves 6


5 Bosc pears

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 TB all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

3 star anise crushed

2 TB viognier white wine (optional)

For the topping:

2/3 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2/3 cup old-fashioned oatmeal

8 TB (1stick) cold unsalted butter, diced


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Peel, core, and cut the pears into large chunks. Place the fruit in a large bowl and add the lemon juice, sugar, flour, crushed anise, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Pour into a greased oval baking dish.

For the topping:

Combine the flour, sugars, salt, and oats in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Pulse twice to mix.  Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is in large crumbles, about 5 or 6 times. Sprinkle in chunks evenly over the fruit, covering the fruit completely.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until the top is brown and the fruit juices have begun to bubble up and caramelize around the edges.  Remember it depends on your oven! add more time if needed. Allow to cool 10 minutes before serving.  When you are ready to serve, break through the crust with a large serving spoon and scoop the warm fruit, juices and topping into individual bowls or plates.  Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

Note:  If you have some semi sweet wine opened, add it, if not you can skip it.  I happened to have some in the refrigerator and it added a nice touch!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Pan Seared Florida Snapper & Shrimp in a Shallot, Parsley and Vermouth Cream Sauce

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What do you do with 10 shrimp and a couple of snapper fillets in the freezer when you have to make dinner for two? You look in the refrigerator find some heavy cream, one shallot and all of a sudden the creativity juices begin to flow through your mind.

This is one of those typical dishes that you find in a fancy restaurant's menu that you think is very involved when it really isn't. It's the title on the menu that is, not the dish. The big challenge is cooking it in one dish so you dont have to spend hours in the kitchen cleaning after yourself! If you have to impress a boyfriend or a lover, or even your own husband, here is what you need.

Serves 2


2 snapper or mahi mahi fillets
8 to 10 shrimp
1/2 lemon
2 TB flour
3 TB butter
2 garlic cloves, mashed
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 TB chopped parsley
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 TB white wine, rose or vermouth
red pepper flakes
Salt & pepper to taste
Parsley (optional)


Marinade the fish fillets in lemon and garlic for at least 1 hour. Pat dry and coat in flour.

Heat 1 TB butter in a skillet and in medium heat saute the garlic. Remove and throw away. You just want to flavor the butter. Turn the heat up a little and cook the fish fillets about 2 minutes on each side (depends on thickness, mine were fairly thin). Remove to a platter.

Add another 1TB of butter and briefly sautee the shrimp until pink. You can use cooked shrimp, just make sure heat is on high and you brown them quickly and remove to the platter with the fish fillets.

Add the last 1TB butter, sautee the shallots until transparent, add the parsley, add the wine, reduce, add the cream and boil down to half the original quantity. Add salt and pepper to taste and a shake of red pepper flakes.

Pour sauce over the fillets and the shrimp, adorn with some parsley if you have it (I didn't) and serve with yellow rice. Don't forget to light the candles and serve with a nice chilled white or dry rose.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Wild Mushroom and Pumpkin Risotto

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The unfortunate thing about risottos is that if you' re the only cook in the house and have no outside help i.e. a maid, you can only serve them when you know your guest very well. You can prep up all the way to the cooking of the rice but once this starts, you have to devote a half hour and lots of patience to turn out a good risotto. When I serve them for company, I usually try to invite a good friend of mine who is also a good risotto maker and we alternate in and out of the kitchen. But how many of us have such a friend? In any event, don't ever try to serve risotto for more than six people, as most pans are only big enough for six healthy servings. Get all your sauteing out of the way, bring the stock to a rolling boil and the rest is a lot of arm work. But when you are finished, you will have one of the most delightful dishes on earth! I also suggest serving it as a lunch dish as it is deceptively filling and tough to digest at night. A simple salad, some bread sticks and a Sauvignon Blanc is all you need as accompaniments. I like a fruit based dessert, no crust, such as the Peche Melba or better yet, Caramelized Baked Apples if they are in season.

Serves 6


2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound fresh pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch dice (1 1/3 cups)
2 medium white onions, finely diced
3/4 cup dry Riesling or white wine
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup fresh chanterelles
1 cup shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and roughly chopped
7 cups canned low-sodium chicken broth
7 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups arborio rice (about 11 ounces)
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (optional)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving


Heat the oil in a nonreactive medium saucepan. Add the pumpkin and half of the onions and cook over moderately high heat, stirring frequently, until the pumpkin is just tender, about 7 minutes. Stir in the wine, nutmeg, white pepper and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 12 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

In a food processor, puree the pumpkin mixture until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl.

To the same pan, add 2 TB butter and saute the shiitake and the chanterelles. 3-5 minutes. Remove to a plate and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, bring the Vegetable Stock for Risotto to a boil over moderate heat. Reduce the heat to low and keep the stock hot.

In a nonreactive medium saucepan, heat 2 1/2 tablespoons of the butter until it begins to sizzle. Add the rice and the remaining onions and cook over moderately high heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the onions are translucent, about 7 minutes. Immediately stir in 1 cup of the hot stock and cook, stirring constantly, until all of the liquid has been absorbed, about 2 minutes.

Reduce the heat to moderate and gradually add 3 more cups of the hot stock, 1 cup at a time, stirring and cooking until each cup is almost absorbed before adding the next, about 15 minutes.

Stir in the pumpkin puree. Continue adding the remaining 3 cups stock, 1 cup at a time, stirring and cooking as above, until the rice is tender, about 10 minutes longer. The risotto will be quite loose. Stir in the parsley and the remaining 2 1/2 tablespoons butter.

Spoon the risotto into 6 warmed soup plates and sprinkle the Parmesan on top. Arrange the mushrooms on top. Serve immediately.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

My Aunt's Caramelized Baked Apples

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It's apple season and I'm in the middle of it! Autumn is in the air, the days are sunny and bright, the nights cool and crisp and if you have apples baking in the oven, we'll you might as well be in heaven!

The apple festivals are about to start. I remember years ago the one in Hendersonville, North Carolina, where I lived, and I can't wait to finish unpacking so I can start enjoying the area. It's been so cool here at night, at least for us Floridians, that we've started lighting the fireplace the past couple of nights. That's what reminded me of baked apples and my aunt's recipe.

Now, baked apples are as simple a dessert as you can make. I usually bake them with brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, butter and a little sherry . Put everything on top and that's it. This recipe has some different ingredients than what you are used to and its delicious. Make sure, though, that the apples are thoroughly cooked. The cooking time depends on the apples and the oven so sometimes it may take up to an hour for the apples to be soft. This may be an easy recipe but there is nothing worse than under cooked baked apples.

Serves 6


6 Rome apples, cored
1 orange, grated zest of
6 TB raisins
1/2 Cup brown sugar
1/2 Cup unsalted butter
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 Cup honey
1 cup orange juice or apple cider
2-3 cinnamon sticks


Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Make a round cavity on top of the apples about 1/2 inch deep. Place the apples in a 2 inch deep baking pan. In a bowl mix the orange zest, the raisins, the brown sugar and the cinnamon. Add mixture to inside of the apple cavities. Whatever doesn't fit sprinkle in bottom of pan. Cut the butter in 6 slices and place on top of the apples. In a small pan mix the honey and orange juice or apple cider until hot and the honey dissolved. Cook for about a minute, until it just comes to a boil, and drizzle on top of the apples. Add a couple of cinnamon sticks to the pan. Bake uncovered for 45 mins. to 1 hour. Baste the apples at least twice during baking. Test to make sure they are soft with a fork. Serve hot or room temperature. Vanilla ice cream is great, but not necessary.


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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Pan Fried Mahi-Mahi with Garlic, Onions & Tomatoes

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Fresh Mahi- Mahi

The wonderful things about living in Florida is you can always go down to the docks and 90% of the time, you'll find fresh Mahi-Mahi for sale. But what do you do when you are land locked and there are no docks for 500 miles? why you buy it frozen..yes frozen, at the grocery store, no less!

I know as you are reading this you are probably thinking, it's time to unsubscribe from this silly cooking blog but before you do, read on for a bit. Awhile back, my daughter who has been raised on nothing but the freshest fish, called me one day from Atlanta and mentioned she had bought some frozen Mahi Mahi at the Kroger's in town and that it was pretty good. I really thought nothing of it until my mother showed up at the house one day with some frozen halibut, her favorite fish, frozen from the grocery store (Publix). We had it pan fried that night and you know what? it was pretty good. Granted, not the same as what you would get in San Francisco, but better than what you would get at the local fish store.

Tonight I had the frozen Mahi -Mahi and here's the trick. Take it out of the refrigerator and let it defrost slowly. Once it is defrosted, marinade it in some lemon juice, a tad of olive oil, mashed garlic and chopped onions for at least 2 hrs. Then proceed to cook as you would if it were fresh. You will be pleasantly surprised. Serve with yellow rice or boiled potatoes. Don't tell anybody where you bought it!

Serves 2


2 Mahi-Mahi fillets fresh or frozen

2 TB olive oil

1 TB butter

2 cloves of garlic mashed

1 medium onion, chopped

juice of 1/2 lemon

flour for dredging

dash of Old Bay or Fisherman's Seasoning

Grape tomatoes or regular tomatoes, chopped

Salt and pepper

Parsley (optional)


Defrost and marinade per instructions above.

Add olive oil and butter to the pan, as well as the mashed and finely chopped garlic. Cook for a minute or two.

Just before frying, remove fish from marinade, pat dry and coat with the flour and seasonings. Add to the skillet and pan fry at medium high for about 3 minutes. It all depends on the thickness of the fillet. Flip over and add the drained chopped onions from the marinade and the chopped tomatoes. Reserve the lemon juice. Cook for another 3-4 minutes. Be careful with the onions, you might want to lower the heat a bit and you can always remove them if they start to burn. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove the fillet from pan and add the parsley and the lemon juice from the marinade plus extra if desired. Swirl around to deglaze the pan and pour over the fillets.

Cook's Note: The frozen fish packages are found near the meat counter. They are flash frozen inmediately after caught! I have tried the Bay Scallops, Mahi-Mahi and Halibut which are pretty good. Always cook with some kind of a sauce and defrost slowly.

New Photos by Lindaraxa taken 8/6/10 using fresh mahi mahi

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