Thursday, April 29, 2010

Bay Scallop Gratin With Lemon Balm And Thai Basil

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This was going to be a Barefoot Contessa recipe but by the time I finished improvising and substituting it had nothing resembling the original.  To begin with, the Thai Basil and Lemon Balm are thriving in my garden and so is the parsley.  I couldn't wait to try them on something soon and this just happened to be the perfect candidate.  Do yourself a favor and go out to the nursery and get some.  They are both wonderful in fish and pasta recipes and if you have some, even a small pot in the window sill, you will find yourself improvising like I did tonight.   Had they not been there I would have never discovered this wonderful dish.  Serve with white rice and fresh asparagus.

4 gratin dishes


2 pound fresh bay scallops

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

4 tablespoons good olive oil

6 large garlic cloves, minced

1 shallot finely minced

 3 TB minced Lemon Balm

3 TB minced Thai Basil

4 TB minced fresh parsley, plus extra for garnish

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3/4 cup panko

6 tablespoons dry white wine

2 pound fresh bay scallops

Lemon, for garnish


Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Place 4 gratin dishes on a sheet pan.

Pat the scallops dry and place in gratin dishes.  Place the butter in the microwave and melt.  Add the olive oil and the minced garlic and shallots, chopped parsley, thai basil and parsley and mix until well combine.  Add salt and pepper.  Pour half the mixture over the scallops and mix well.  Make sure all the garlic and shallots are added now. Add half the lemon juice.   Fold the panko in the other half of the butter mixture and set aside.

Bake for 6-7 minutes.  Add 1 TB of the wine to each gratin dish and place under the broiler for another couple of minutes.  Add the panko butter mix on top of the scallops and place back in broiler until the topping is golden and sizzling.  Finish with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a sprinkling of chopped parsley.  Wait about 5 minutes before you serve to let everything settle.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Payback Time...A Derby Party

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As my friend and fellow blogger Reggie Darling says in his wonderful blog, there is no excuse for not reciprocating and paying back all those invitations you've had during the year.  None.  There are great opportunities to have friends over and they need not be lavish or expensive.  Derby Day is one of them. 

The time of day and season couldn't be more perfect, particularly if you have a nice garden where to host the party.  If you schedule your party for 5:00 p.m. everyone will have time to mingle before the actual race starts at around 6:30.  You must have a friend or two who enjoy running the books, i.e. placing bets on the horses! That shouldn't be too hard to organize and its always fun.  Call him beforehand (I'm sure it's a he) and ask him to help.  You will make his day!

Make it Derby Day attire, so everyone has plenty of leeway to dress up and it gives the impression that something more than casual wear is expected  i.e. no jeans or t-shirts! Just because it's a casual menu doesn't mean we don't get to dress up.

I know this is too much to hope for, but wouldn't it be nice?!

The menu is a cinch, and you can go all out and make it yourself or buy some things already made like a sliced ham from Honey Baked Ham.  I have to admit it's one of those things that you can buy that is actually delicious. A couple of casseroles, biscuits, dessert, and you are done.  It is also one of those parties that you need not seat everyone down with place cards etc.  Set some tables out with pretty tablecloths and lots of flowers and lay the plates, napkins etc right on the buffet table.  This is a casual menu, that's what makes it so easy!

 Oh yes, and make sure you have one of those big TVs somewhere in the house were everyone can gather. And don't make them wait for the food too long. Set out the buffet after the winners are announced...not the horses, your guests!  As to mint julep cups, it is perfectly acceptable nowadays to serve mint juleps in highball glasses, so don't panic.  What is not acceptable is paper cups! If you have pretty linen cocktail napkins, now is the time to use them. 

Make sure you have plenty of appetizers, particularly munchies, both outside and inside where you'll watch the race.   A couple of homemade spreads and something hot to pass around.  Go to Costco, you'll find plenty of inspiration there!  Depending on how many people you have, you can add or cut back from the suggestions below.  Keep in mind this menu is very similar to the one served at the Governor's Party in Kentucky after the race so it's quite authentic.  I have eliminated the grits and a couple of other starchy things, considering the time of day and the fact I'm not a Southerner and can't see eating grits after 5:00p.m., but if you want, be my guest!

 Here's the menu, now go out and invite your friends!

Derby Day Menu

Assorted roasted nuts
Smoked Salmon Spread
Cocktail meatballs or frankfurters


Corn Pudding*

Tossed Salad (optional)

Vanilla Ice Cream

White and red wine

*The corn pudding recipe is posted in my country blog My Kitchen by the Lake

Keep in mind this is an early party, so don't be put off  if people leave early.  Remember, this party started at 5:00 so for those of you who hate to stay up, everyone should be happily gone by nine or ten at the latest, promise!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Derby Day...Mint Juleps at the Governor's House

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It's the drink synonymous with the Run for the Roses, and indeed on Derby Day, vast amounts of Mint Juleps are sipped under cover of splashy hats.

 The classic Kentucky Derby drink requires the perfect balance of mint, sweetness, and bourbon.  The one you will see below was the one prepared at the Governor's Party after the Derby when John Y. Brown (Kentucky Fried Chicken) was the Governor and Phyllis George Brown (Miss America) the First Lady of Kentucky.  Remember Chicken By George?

Stay tuned for my Derby Party Menu tomorrow!


A mint julep is traditionally made of four ingredients: mint, bourbon, sugar, and water. Traditionally, spearmint is the mint of choice used in Southern states; in particular, Kentucky Colonel. In the use of sugar and mint, it is similar to the mojito. In preparing a mint julep, a fresh mint sprig is used primarily as a garnish, to introduce the flavor and aroma through the nose. If mint leaves are used in the preparation, they should just be very lightly bruised, if at all. However, proper preparation of the cocktail is commonly debated, as methods may vary considerably from one bartender to another. By another method, the mint julep may be considered as one of a loosely associated family of drinks called "smashes" (the brandy smash is another example, as well as the mojito), in which fresh mint and other ingredients are muddled or crushed in preparation for flavoring the finished drink. The step further releases essential oils and juices into the mixture, intensifying the flavor from the added ingredient or ingredients.

Kentucky Colonel Mint

Traditionally, mint juleps were often served in silver or pewter cups, and held only by the bottom and top edges of the cup. This allows frost to form on the outside of the cup. Traditional hand placement may have arisen as a way to reduce the heat transferred from the hand to the silver or pewter cup. Today, mint juleps are most commonly served in a tall old-fashioned glass, Collins glass, or highball glass with a straw.


The origins of the mint julep are clouded and may never be definitively known. The first appearance of a mint julep in print came in a book by John Davis published in London in 1803, where it was described as "a dram of spirituous liquor that has mint steeped in it, taken by Virginians of a morning." However, Davis did not specify that bourbon was the spirit used. The mint julep originated in the southern United States, probably during the eighteenth century. U.S. Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky introduced the drink to Washington, D.C., at the Round Robin Bar in the famous Willard Hotel during his residence in the city. The term 'julep' is generally defined as a sweet drink, particularly one used as a vehicle for medicine. The word itself is derived from Arabic: ماء ورد‎ Māʾ ward and Persian: گلاب Golâb, meaning rose water. Americans enjoyed not only bourbon based juleps during the nineteenth century, but also gin based juleps made with genever, an aged gin. However, bourbon based juleps have recently decisively eclipsed gin based juleps.

The Kentucky Derby

The Kentucky Derby is a Grade I stakes race for three year-old Thoroughbred horses, held annually in Louisville, Kentucky, United States on the first Saturday in May, capping the two-week-long Kentucky Derby Festival and is widely considered the most prestigious horse race in the world. The race is one and a quarter miles (2 km) at Churchill Downs. Colts and geldings carry 126 pounds (57.2 kg) and fillies 121 pounds (54.9 kg). The race is known in the United States as "The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports" or "The Fastest Two Minutes in Sports" for its approximate duration, and is also called "The Run for the Roses" for the blanket of roses draped over the winner. It is the first leg of the United States Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing and is followed by the Preakness Stakes then the Belmont Stakes. The attendance at the Kentucky Derby ranks first in North America and usually surpasses the attendance of all other stakes races including the Preakness Stakes, Belmont Stakes and the Breeders' Cup.

The mint julep is well-known as the traditional beverage of the Kentucky Derby, a position it has held since 1938. Each year almost 120,000 juleps are served at Churchill Downs over the two day period of the Kentucky Oaks and the Kentucky Derby. For over 18 years, the Early Times Mint Julep Cocktail has been the designated "official mint julep of the Kentucky Derby". Early Times is a brand of Kentucky whiskey which was first distilled in 1860. The brand became popular during 1920s. During the prohibition in the US, this whiskey was exempt from the law, having been designated as "medicinal whiskey".

Mint Juleps at the Governor's House

Serves 12

3 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups water
2 bunches fresh mint, divided
24 oz. (3 cups) Kentucky bourbon
Crushed ice

Combine sugar and water and bring to a boil. Let simmer for 10 minutes until thick and clear.  While hot, stir in 1 bunch of mint sprigs.  Let cool.  Then strain the syrup into a small container and discard the mint.

When ready to serve, pour two ounces (1/4 cup) bourbon and 2 oz syrup into each ice filled, frosted cup.  Add a sprig of mint.

Some may find this a bit sweet, in which case only add 1 ounce of syrup to 2 ounces of bourbon and that way everyone can be happy! dont forget the sprig of mint!

Photo top Charles Walton
others from Google images

Thursday, April 22, 2010

S'mores Coffee and Fudge Ice Cream Cake

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It's getting warmer everyday...guess it's time to bring the ice cream machine down from the attict.  A cake like this is not complicated, but it does require at least 30 minutes of your dedicated time while the layers are getting hard.  Do it in the afternoon, while watching some of the cooking shows and time will fly by! Once you get throught this step, you don't have to worry until serving time. 

A decadent, impressive dessert that appeals to everyone's inner Boy Scout or Girl Scout. Begin preparing this a day ahead. Serve it next time you have a barbecue, particularly if kids are invited!

yield: Makes 10 to 12 servings


16 whole graham crackers (about 8 ounces)

1 cup whole almonds, toasted

3 tablespoons sugar

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

1 1/2 quarts coffee ice cream, softened until spreadable

Fudge Sauce

1 7-ounce jar marshmallow creme

2 cups miniature marshmallows


Preheat oven to 350°F. Finely grind graham crackers, toasted almonds and 3 tablespoons sugar in processor. Add 1/2 cup melted butter; process mixture until moist crumbs form. Press graham cracker mixture onto bottom and up sides of 9-inch-diameter springform pan with 2 3/4-inch-high sides. Bake crust until edges are golden, about 12 minutes. Cool graham cracker crust completely.

Spread 2 cups softened ice cream in crust. Spoon 3/4 cup cooled Fudge Sauce over. Freeze until sauce is just set, about 10 minutes. Refrigerate or freeze remaining ice cream as necessary to prevent ice cream from melting. Repeat layering with 2 cups ice cream, then 3/4 cup sauce. Freeze until sauce is just set. Spread remaining 2 cups ice cream over. Cover and freeze cake overnight. Refrigerate remaining Fudge Sauce.

Preheat broiler. Warm remaining Fudge Sauce in small saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat. Place cake in pan on baking sheet. Spread marshmallow creme over top of cake. Sprinkle miniature marshmallows over in single layer. Broil just until marshmallows are deep brown, watching closely to avoid burning, about 1 minute. Run knife between pan sides and cake to loosen. Remove pan sides. Cut cake into wedges. Serve cake immediately with warm Fudge Sauce.

Fudge Sauce

yield: Makes about 2 1/2 cups


1 cup whipping cream

1/2 cup light corn syrup

10 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped

print a shopping list for this recipe


Bring cream and corn syrup to boil in heavy medium saucepan. Remove from heat. Add chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Refrigerate until cool but still pourable, stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes.

Bon Appetit 2000

Foodie Friday is at DesignsbyGollum!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Lindaraxa's Tidbits...How to Cook, Serve and Eat An Artichoke

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Artichokes are probably one of the most intimidating vegetables on the face of the earth, but if you've ever had one, especially with hollandaise sauce, you know they are divine!

My husband used to say it was the only vegetable where you ended up with more on your plate when you finished than when you started.  Artichokes were also my son's favorite vegetable when he was in kindergarten. One day I got a phone call from his teacher who wanted to share with me what had happened at school when she asked the class to write down their favorite things.  When it came to food, most kids wrote down things like hot dogs, pizza, hamburgers etc.  then she saw my son raise his hand to ask "How do you spell artichokes with hollandaise sauce?"  True story, no joke.Yes, my children were introduced to everything from an early age and if it took hollandaise to get them to eat artichokes, I am still grateful!.

There is no reason to be put off by the sight of an artichoke.  They are very easy to cook.

Choose globes that are dark green, heavy, and have "tight" leaves

Cooking Artichokes

Cut the stem to about 1 inch so they will lay down flat on your plate.  Put them on top of a steamer inside a big pot and steam for about 45 minutes.  You will know when they are done if when you stick a knife through the stalk  it is soft like a potato when its done. That's it!  You can serve them cold with a French vinaigrette or hot with my favorite,  hollandaise sauce.  For my easy, no fail recipes go here

Serving artichokes.

There are beautiful artichoke plates you can buy, or you can simply serve them on a regular plate with a bowl on the side to place the discarded leaves.  You will need a knife and a fork for when you get to the best part, the heart.  I always serve them as a first course so they can shine on their own!.  The hollandaise is passed around so everyone can take a couple of spoonfuls and place in their plates to dip the leaves and later eat with the heart.  Same with a vinaigrette, except in that case, everything is served cold and you should really cut the top third of the artichoke before you steam them.  It makes for a nicer presentation and you can drizzle some of the vinaigrette inside.

 These are my plates. Notice at left is a place for the sauce.

How to eat an artichoke

Start by pulling off one of the outermost petals.  It is both proper and polite to pluck the leaves with your fingers, leaving fork and knife aside for now. Pull off a leaf, holding it by the pointed end. If you're provided with a dip such as a vinaigrette or mayonnaise, put a small part of the edible portion of the leaf in the dip and scrape with your teeth. Don't overdo it on the dip or you won't taste the artichoke. (the edible portion of the leaves becomes greater as you get closer to the center of the artichoke). Discard remainder (you'll want to have an empty bowl ready in which to drop them).

Just before you get to the very center, leaves will become almost white with purple tips. Be careful of these leaves because their purple ends are prickly.

When the leaves are pulled, you will be left with the base, the heart, crowned with a fuzzy patch. You have now reached the best part of all, the very reason for eating artichokes: the heart. Carefully scoop away the fuzzy stuff with your knife or spoon. With knife and fork, cut bites from the heart like pieces of prime fillet.

Here's a video:

Finger Bowls
If you have them, this is the time to use them!

Wine Pairings

If eating with a hollandaise sauce, a dry French Chardonnay or Fume Blanc is best.  Be conscious of the fact that after eating an artichoke, the red wine served with the main course may taste a bit acidic.  A piece of bread after finishing the artichoke and before tasting the wine will help.

...more tidbits!

First developed in Sicily, Italy, artichokes were brought to this country (California) by the Spaniards in 1600's but did not become popular until the 1920's.  They were the third largest crop in the valley in 1929.

Did you know Marilyn Monroe was crowned Artichoke Queen in 1948? That made them super popular afterwards!

80% of the artichokes in the US are grown in Castroville, CA, 98 miles south of San Francisco (been there!)

The thicker the stalk, the bigger the heart!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Revisiting An Old Classic...Julia Child's Sublime Chocolate Mousse

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The first serious dessert I ever made was this chocolate mousse forty years ago.  Every time I serve it people go nuts over it, even those who don't like chocolate.  I can't figure that one out.  This is perhaps the most chocolaty of all chocolate desserts!  It is in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking Vol I and even though I would like to say it is an adaptation, it is not.  How can you tinker with sheer perfection?! The only thing I could loosely call an adaptation in this recipe might be the specific use of Grand Marnier for her orange liqueur.  She does not specify, and there are indeed other orange liqueurs, but I think Grand Marnier is the king of them all!

I have seen later versions of her chocolate mousse recipe and none come close to the original.  For one thing, this one has more butter than the one in her book The Way to Cook and it also adds orange liqueur.  David Leibowitz posted her recipe and also called it perfection, but he substituted rum  and I think that makes a big difference. Don't do it. This recipe also taught me the importance of adding a little coffee to the chocolate when melting to bring out its flavor.  Another big difference.

Chocolate mousse is one of those desserts that fits any occasion.  Have you noticed when you go to an elegant French restaurant and they roll out the dessert cart how chocolate mousse is always in the mix?  No matter how you serve it, with whipped cream or creme anglaise or simply by itself,  it always brings out the mmms and the ahs from everyone around the table

For Christmas Eve, when I have all my family around, I usually serve this as one of two or three desserts.  It complements whatever anyone else brings.  It is so practical... you can make it the day before, and it keeps for a couple of days.  You also can double the recipe if you are entertaining a bigger crowd.

Do go out and buy a small bottle of Grand Marnier even though I know it's expensive.  You can use it later for the orange sauce in Duck a l'Orange and for a million other things, including some Chinese dishes and more chocolate mousse!  It keeps forever and believe me, it won't go to waste.  As to the orange peel, I made it once incorporating it and it was heaven, but if you want to to skip it it's okay.  Don't skip anything else though, it won't be the same!

Serves 6-8 people


6 ounces (170g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

6 ounces (170g) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

4 TB (60ml) dark-brewed coffee

4 large eggs, separated

3/4 cup (170g),  sugar

1/4 cup Grand Marnier (orange liqueur)

1/4 cup finely diced glazed orange peel (optional)

1 tablespoon (15ml) water

pinch of salt


1. Heat a saucepan one-third full with hot water, and in a bowl set on top, melt together the chocolate, butter and coffee, stirring over the barely simmering water, until smooth. Remove from heat.

2. Fill a large bowl with ice water and set aside.

3. In a bowl large enough to nest securely on the saucepan of simmering water, whisk the yolks of the eggs with the 3/4 cup of sugar, Grand Marnier, and water for about 3 minutes until the mixture is thick, like runny mayonnaise. (You can also use a handheld electric mixer.)

3. Remove from heat and place the bowl of whipped egg yolks within the bowl of ice water and beat until cool and thick. Then fold the chocolate mixture into the egg yolks.  Add the optional orange peel.

4. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with the salt until frothy. Continue to beat until they start to hold their shape. Whip in the tablespoon of sugar and continue to beat until thick and shiny, but not completely stiff.

5. Fold one-third of the beaten egg whites into the chocolate mixture, then fold in the remainder of the whites just until incorporated, but don't overdo it or the mousse will lose volume.

6. Transfer the mousse to a serving bowl or divide into serving dishes, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, until firm.

Serving: I like to serve the chocolate mousse as it is, maybe with just a small dollop of whipped cream; it neither needs, nor wants, much adornment.

Storage: The mousse au chocolat can be refrigerated for up to 4 days.

Photo credit David Leibowitz

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Dinner Party Fare...Aromatic Basmati Rice

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This is the perfect recipe to have on hand for a dinner party.  It goes well with braised beef, chicken, roast pork, Cornish hens, curries, tagines and fish, particularly if they have a sauce.  It's aromatic and has that wonderful combination of sweet and slightly spicy that goes so well with certain entrees.  I love this rice! Keep it handy for the next time you have to entertain.

Those of us who have been cooking for a long time have our recipes categorized not only by meal course or season,  but also by occasion or holiday.  In this case, I would immediately think dinner party,  paired with a roast pork tenderloin, chicken curry or Cornish hens, three entrees that immediately come to mind when it comes to entertaining guests. Whenever you find a recipe you like, think not only about what you would like to serve it with but also for what occasion.  This rice is festive enough to serve when guests are coming.  It's  not only delicious, it looks like some effort went into its preparation.

It so happens, that it's from master entertainer and West Coast caterer and party planner, Colin Cowie. Remember his Flourless Almond Torte with Coffee Sauce?  If you go to his website you will see that his food and recipes are definitely entertaining fare.  Some may be even simple and straightforward but "dressy " as far as presentation is concerned.  Just like a "little black dress"!


•1 tablespoon unsalted butter

•1 garlic glove, crushed

•1/2 cup red bell pepper, seeds removed and cut into 1/4-inch cubes

•1/2 cup yellow bell pepper, seeds removed and cut into 1/4-inch cubes

•1/2 cup chopped yellow onion

•1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

•1 1/2 cups of white Basmati rice

•3 cups of chicken stock or water

•1/4 cup golden raisins

•1/4 cup dark raisins

•1 cinnamon stick

•1/2 teaspoon of salt

•3 tablespoons slivered almonds

•6 whole sprigs of cilantro, for garnish


1. Toast the almond slivers by placing them in a skillet over medium heat until they turn a shade darker, about 3 minutes; alternatively, place them on a baking sheet in a 300 F oven for 3 to 5 minutes. Be careful not to burn them. Remove the nuts immediately from the pan and pour them into a glass or ceramic vessel to prevent further toasting.

2. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and add the garlic, bell peppers, onion, and turmeric. Cook uncovered for 10 minutes, or until the onion becomes translucent.

3. Add the rice, stock or water, raisins, cinnamon, and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low; cover and cook for 20 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed by the rice.

4. Remove the pan from the heat and keep it covered for 5 minutes. Fluff the rice with a fork and discard the cinnamon. Transfer the rice to a serving platter, top it with the toasted almonds and cilantro sprigs, and serve.

Recipe courtesy of Colin Cowie

Foodie Friday is at DesignsbyGollum!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A Spring Dinner Party...Provencal Roasted Leg of Lamb

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This is one of the many ways I prepare a leg of lamb, butterflied and roasted.  For a dinner party, it's the only way to go.  There is no hassle when it comes to slicing and serving, which is something to consider when you have a lot of last minute details to think about before you sit down to dinner. This is always the part I dread and the one I mentally rehearse the night before the party.  Pulling it all together with effortless elegance (and cool as a cucumber) is the sign of a good and experienced hostess.

For many years, I have not had a host to share with the duties of hosting a dinner party, although on many ocassions, I have had a dinner partner and/or a maid.  They come in handy, the dinner partner and the maid, but in the end, the success of your party depends mainly on you.    So make things easy on yourself, cook what you know and always try to serve a menu that doesn't require too many last minute details.

To enhance the flavor of this leg of lamb, the meat is brushed with a mixture of mustard and herbes de Provence before roasting. A Chilled Spring Pea Soup, the Sweet Potato & Leek Gratin or Scalloped Potatoes and  the Strawberry Short Cakes wrap up a beautiful and easy Spring dinner party. Oh, and if you are like me, you wouldn't think of eating lamb without mint jelly!


1 boneless leg of lamb, about 4 lb., butterflied and trimmed of fat

3 Tbs. Dijon mustard

2 Tbs. herbes de Provence, coarsely ground with a mortar and pestle

1 TB minced garlic

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

3 Tbs. olive oil

3 leeks, white and light green portions, cleaned and quartered lengthwise*

1 cup pearl onions, peeled


Preheat an oven to 450ºF.

Lay the leg of lamb flat on a cutting board. Using a meat pounder, lightly pound the lamb to an even 1 1/2-inch thickness. In a small bowl, stir together the mustard, herbes de Provence, olive oil and minced garlic, salt and pepper. Brush the mustard mixture evenly over the inside surface of the lamb. Roll up the lamb and tie securely with kitchen twine at 2-inch intervals. Rub the outside of the lamb with salt, pepper and another 1 Tbs. of the oil.

Heat a roasting pan over high heat. Sear the lamb on all sides until browned, 3 to 5 minutes per side.

In a bowl, stir together the leeks, pearl onions, the remaining 1 Tbs. oil, salt and pepper. Arrange the vegetables around the lamb. Transfer the pan to the oven and roast for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 375ºF and continue to roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat registers 130º to 135ºF for medium-rare to medium, about 45 minutes more. Transfer the lamb to a cutting board, cover loosely with aluminum foil and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

Remove the twine from the lamb, cut the meat into slices and arrange on a warmed platter. Skim the fat off the pan drippings and transfer the drippings to a sauceboat. Serve the lamb immediately with the leeks and pearl onions. Pass the pan drippings alongside. Serves 8.

*Substitute carrots for the leeks if you are serving the Sweet Potato and Leek Gratin

Adapted from Williams Sonoma Kitchens

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

10 Recipes for Leftover Ham!

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Easter is one of the best holidays for leftovers.  If you baked a big ham, there is a bonanza of recipes you can make and even freeze using both the bone and the meat.  By the time I'm finished with that ham everybody is threatening a ham boycott!

To begin with, never, ever, ever throw a bone away. In most cases, they are the the basis for a great soup or broth and even a sauce. Always look inside your refrigerator for interesting things to cook with what you already have. Take a look inside the "old cemetery" and see what is going to go bad before too long. Some things may already be too dead to salvage. Throw those out! As to the rest, you will be surprised at how many ideas will pop in your mind.

Some of our best and most creative recipes sometimes come from these leftovers, and I can't tell you how proud you will feel after you have used them. You don't have to use up all the ham in one week either.  Slice it, freeze it and save it to make any one of the following recipes next week, or next month! Chopped frozen ham defrosts quickly and can also be used in omelettes and sofritos for rice and other dishes. If you haven't used that Easter ham yet, freeze it  before it's too late.

So, forget those ham sandwiches and take a look at these great suggestions for what's left:

Ham And Green Eggs

and...more recipes in:

This should tie you over 'til next Easter!

Ham, Gruyere And Spinach Bread Pudding

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4 large egg whites

4 large eggs

1 cup Half and Half


2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary

Bread & filling:

4 cups Italian or French  bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (crusts removed if desired)

5 cups chopped spinach, wilted (see Tip)

1/2 cup chopped jarred roasted red peppers

1 cup diced ham steak (5 ounces)


3/4 cup shredded Gruyere cheese


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Coat an 11-by-7-inch glass baking dish or a 2-quart casserole with cooking spray.

To prepare custard: Whisk egg whites, eggs and milk in a medium bowl. Add mustard, pepper and rosemary: whisk to combine.

Toss bread, spinach, roasted red peppers and ham in a large bowl. Add the custard and toss well to coat. Transfer to the prepared baking dish and push down to compact. Cover with foil.

Bake until the custard has set, 40 to 45 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle with cheese and continue baking until the pudding is puffed and golden on top, 15 to 20 minutes more. Transfer to a wire rack and cool for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

To wilt greens, rinse greens thoroughly in cool water. Transfer them to a large microwave-safe bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and punch several holes in the wrap. Microwave on high until wilted, 2 to 3 minutes. Squeeze out any excess moisture from the greens before adding them to the recipe.

Oh, and dont' forget to check 10 Recipes for Leftover Ham!

Recipe adapted from

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Cafe Boulud's Chilled Fresh Pea Soup

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About six years ago, I had an operation in New York and had to stay four weeks recovering before they would let me fly home. That's the bad news..the good news is I convalesced at a hotel apartment on Madison called the Surrey, right next to Cafe Boulud. Guess where room service came from? It was fun for a while, but after a few meals, you really felt like some good old fashioned home cooking for a change!

One of the things I never tired of was their green pea soup which was on the menu every day, night and day. Years later, when I bought the Cafe Boulud Cookbook, it mentioned that in Spring, this soup was always on the menu. Check! My stay was during April and May, a wonderful time to be in New York, even if you are sick.

Daniel Boulud’s deliciously light and clean-tasting soup is a mix of sweet peas, favas, pea shoots, snap peas and snow peas. I have skipped the labor-intensive fresh favas, as well as the pea shoots. Instead, just use sugar snaps, snow, and fresh peas or frozen baby peas. The result is just as good! I also sometimes use mint instead of rosemary. Peas and mint are a fantastic combination and this surely is the time for it.


8 slices of bacon
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 leek, white and tender green parts only, thinly sliced
5 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
Two 4-inch rosemary sprigs (or mint if you are substituting)
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
1/2 pound sugar snap peas, thinly sliced
1/2 pound snow peas
1 lbs of fresh peas or 2 10-ounce boxes frozen baby peas
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 cup heavy cream
1 garlic clove, minced

Fresh Mint for decorating


In a medium soup pot, cook the bacon over moderate heat until browned and crisp, about 6 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a plate. Pour off the fat in the pot.

In the same pot, heat the olive oil. Add the celery, onion and leek and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned, about 7 minutes. Add the chicken stock, 4 slices of the cooked bacon, 1 rosemary sprig and a pinch each of salt and white pepper. Simmer until the vegetables are very tender, about 15 minutes. Discard the bacon and rosemary. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the vegetables to a blender.

Meanwhile, bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the sugar snaps and cook for 3 minutes. Add the frozen baby peas or fresh peas and the parsley and cook just until heated through, about 1 minute; drain. Add the sugar snaps, baby peas and parsley to the blender and puree until smooth, adding a few tablespoons of the broth to loosen the mixture. Transfer the soup and the remaining broth to a large bowl set in a larger bowl of ice water to cool.

In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream, garlic and remaining rosemary sprig (or mint) to a boil. Simmer over low heat until slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Strain the garlic cream into a bowl and let cool.

Ladle the chilled pea soup into bowls and drizzle with the garlic cream. Crumble the remaining 4 slices of bacon into each bowl and serve.

You can make ahead... the soup and cream can be refrigerated separately for up to 2 days

Photo Credit: Quentin Bacon for Food and Wine

Monday, April 5, 2010

Succotash...A New Found Favorite

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It's funny how taste changes with age. I used to hate succotash when I was in boarding school and they used to serve it at least once a week, or so it felt.  Now, all of a sudden, I love it. The traditional recipe, that is, if you are Southern, has heavy cream added towards the end.  I frankly don't think it needs it so I have omitted it.  To be frank, more often than not, I just cook the lima beans and corn together in water and add a little butter at the end.  I only gild the lily if guests are involved.

Serves 6


1 tablespoon butter

1/2 cup chopped red pepper

2 cups frozen or canned corn, drained

2 cups frozen lima beans

1/4 cup water

2 tablespoons butter

Salt and pepper

2 slices of Bacon (optional)


Cook bacon in moderate heat, stirring frequently, until crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer bacon with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain.

In a saucepan, heat butter and cook red pepper until tender about 1 minute. Stir in corn, lima beans and water. Cover and bring to a simmer. Cook for 3 minutes. Stir in butter and season to taste. Garnish with crisp bacon.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Easter Tables...Happy Easter!

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Martha Stewart

I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a nice Easter Sunday.  It is usually the first time in the new year where we can sit outside, at least for awhile,  and enjoy the day.  It is also the first time when we can start adding some color to our table with flowers, dishes and tablecloths.  It is probably the best time to go out and buy flowers if you don't have any in your garden.  Tulips, hyacinths, African violets, daffodils, hydrangeas you name it, you have your pick of any color combination you want so take advantage of it. Here are some pictures for inspiration:

Carolyn Roehm

Tartan Scot

Martha Stewart

Williams Sonoma

Apartment therapy

House Beautiful

Martha Stewart

Southern Living

Eddie Ross

My sous chef, Lucy, and I want to wish you a beautiful Easter Sunday with lots of family and friends around you.  Have a wonderful day and remember...don't sweat the small stuff!

Happy Easter Y'all!
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