Wednesday, June 30, 2010

How to Grill a Great Hamburger

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In my family the women are the great cooks, but the men are not far behind, specially on the grill. Since they know they can't compete with us in the kitchen, the grill is their domain. What they don't know is that behind their backs we do a pretty good job there too, we just don't let them know it!

My brother is now one of my best fans. I understand from my sister in law he reads my blog every night when he gets home from work. Two nights ago, while we were on the phone talking about something else, he suddenly volunteered his newest hamburger recipe, a stroke of genius indeed.  I made some for us last night and they were so good I even forgot to add the cheese.

One of the most important things about a hamburger is obviously the type of meat.  Some people think sirloin is the best meat to use; others swear by ground chuck... neither is right.  The best meat is a combination of sirloin and chuck.  The flavor of sirloin together with the fat from the chuck renders the perfect hamburger.  Salt and pepper and a little Worcestershire sauce is all you need and for cheese fans, some cheddar.  Make a small indentation with your thumb in the middle after shaping to help it cook evenly and whatever you do, do not flatten with a spatula when grilling.  I cringe when I see people do that.  The meat should be room temperature before it goes on the fire but do not let it sit out once blood comes out.  Oil or spray the grill and wait until the coals are very hot before you add the patties.  Wrap a piece of bacon over the hamburger and throw it on the grill.  This is his secret! You can remove it later, add it to the bun, feed it to the dog or just gulp it down while no one is watching!  For medium rare, I cook mine 5 minutes on each side covered,  For medium, I would add another minute on each side. Flip just once!

My brother likes to split an English muffin add some olive oil and grill it while hamburger is cooking.  I love the French hamburger rolls from Publix which are light and airy.  The rest is up to you...for me, a slice of tomato, onion, catsup and lettuce is it, although horseradish mustard is divine!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

An Elegant Summer Menu For the Ladies Who Lunch

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A long time ago, I promised one of my readers that I would post a menu for a ladies lunch.  With all the things that have happened lately in my life,  I frankly forgot.  I hope it is not too late to remedy the situation, particularly since she has been one of my earliest and most faithful subscribers.

Ladies luncheons are fun to have.  My Mother's generation is great at planning these things but, unfortunately, when it came time for my age group, we were all too busy caring for kids or going to work.  I was seldom a party to the "ladies who lunch" set, but I did have a small group of corporate girlfriends with whom to celebrate birthdays at fancy restaurants in Manhattan.  We all had money to spend in those days and the presents and food were terrific.  It was a great time to catch up on other people's real life and good old fashioned gossip.  For just a couple of hours, we were girls again, in spite of the fact that by 3 o'clock we had to put back our armors and go fight another day.

Later, when I moved to Miami, I was reunited with a lot of my childhood friends and my Mother's friends and I have to confess to attending many a ladies lunch.  It was not a labor of love, believe me, those ladies can cook and when they get together, it's all systems go!  Out came the linen tablecloths, and the silver,  china, and flowers.  Nothing was purchased or catered;  they spent days getting ready for the big event, cooking and ironing with countless hours on the phone figuring out what they were going to wear and what they were going to eat.  On the day of the party they came dressed to the nines, as if  they were going to lunch at Cipriani's... pearls, Hermes scarves, Ferragamo shoes and all the accoutrements from days gone by. Oh, and they never broke a sweat, not this group, even in the heat of the day!  It was kind of fun, but it did take planning and outside help.  Luckily, good help is plentiful in Miami  for it's nice to end the party with all the dishes washed and put away. 

But don't despair, although I love a beautiful party, for occasions such as these, I like to put together a menu that I can cook the day before and that doesn't require a lot of last minute fuzzing or outside help.  The soup definitely must be made the day before so that it is very cold when served.  The pork is also cooked and sliced the day before and can be arranged on a platter and placed in the refrigerator the night before.  Do bring it out at least a couple of hours before you serve it so that it is room temperature. The cake and sauce are also made ahead and the squash casserole can be assembled the night before and cooked on the day of the party.  I always like to have one hot dish with a cold lunch and this is a great match for the menu.  Feel free to use any other hot casserole you may have tucked away.

Remember to clean out your refrigerator ahead of time so everything fits in the fridge.  If you set the table the night before, all you will need to do that day is mix the salad.  Notice I have kept hors d'oeuvres light on purpose.  If you want to expand, just do a small  antipasto type platter with perhaps just olives and thinly sliced prosciutto, but don't overfeed them before they sit down.

If you have pretty demitasse cups, you can fill them with the cold soup and pass them around before you sit down to lunch.  This eliminates more dishes and spoons to wash (you have to think that way) and they love it!  They make quite a splash and provide interesting and trivial conversation for another half hour or so...just make sure you chill them before you pour the cold soup in.

White peaches from California are in and you can usually buy a big case at Costco at this time of the year.  Squeeze the peaches to or three days ahead and keep the juice covered in the refrigerator.  Costco also has some very good Prosecco for around $10.00!  Do make the cheese wafers the weekend before.  They can be shaped into rolls and frozen or refrigerated.

The rose wine I recommend can be purchased at Crown Liquors in Coral Gables (my friend lives there) or at most well stocked liquor stores.

This menu is for 8 but it can be easily double.  If you are organized, you will not need any outside help.

Ladies' Lunch Menu

Endive and Watercress Salad With a Lemon Vinaigrette

*Domaine Houchart Rose*


Now I have shown you how versatile some recipes, like this tenderloin, can be. Served hot it can be the main course for an elegant summer or winter dinner, or it can be served cold for lunch or a buffett. If you have left overs, slice thin and save for a Cuban, how versatile is that!

You may also want to check Cool Summer Menus For A Ladies Lunch

Images: Carolyne Roehm

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Easy Summer Desserts....Peach Amaretto Sundaes

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The height of the summer season is next weekend with the Fourth of July.  Chances are you will either be having guests if you live in the country, the seashore, or like me, on a lake; or you will be going somewhere as a guest.  If you are having guests, come on over to my country blog and check out my game plan, including easy menus and recipes, for the entire weekend.  If you are a guests, come and see what your poor hostess has to go through in order for everyone to have an enjoyable weekend..  It would be wonderful if you could alleviate her load and bring over some cookies, dessert,  muffins, jams or anything else that would make things easier for her.  You could bake some cheese wafers and stick them in a tin.  They would be great to have with cocktails over the weekend.  Yes, flowers and wine are wonderful, but what your hostess really needs is some help with the menu.

If you can't cook or bake, or don't have time for either before you leave, offer to make dessert one night.  This desert is one of those easy and simple recipes that look like a million dollars but can be prepared in a jiffy.  Some things you can bring with you but others, like the ice cream, will need to be purchased nearby.   Amaretto cookies can be made or they can be bought in a tin at most gourmet stores.  I see them all the time at Marshall's!  The peaches are beginning to show up at the markets and you can buy some early next week so they will be ready for the weekend. And the liquor, well you know where to get that! Put everything in a basket and presto! you have a nice and very original hostess gift!

If on the other hand you are the hostess, this is the kind of dessert you will definitely need to keep handy for the rest of the summer.  Trust me, you will be pulling it out all the time

Juicy peaches, crushed cookies and vanilla ice cream spiked with brandy and amaretto add up to the perfect summer dessert.

yield: Serves 6


2 pints vanilla ice cream, softened slightly

5 tablespoons amaretto

2 tablespoons brandy

6 ripe peaches, peeled if desired, pitted, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices

1/4 cup sugar

1 cup crushed amaretti cookies

mint leaves for decoration (optional)


Combine ice cream, 3 tablespoons amaretto and 1 tablespoon brandy in large bowl. Stir to blend well. Cover and freeze until firm. (Can be prepared 2 days ahead. Keep ice cream mixture frozen.)

Combine peaches, sugar, remaining 2 tablespoons amaretto and remaining 1 tablespoon brandy in another large bowl. Toss to coat. Let peach mixture stand until sugar dissolves, tossing occasionally, about 15 minutes.

Divide sliced peaches among 6 dessert bowls or wineglasses. Spoon vanilla ice cream mixture atop peaches. Sprinkle desserts with crushed amaretti cookies. Decorate with  mint  Serve immediately.

Adapted from Bon Appetit

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Savannah Sponge Cake With Berries And Madeira Sweet Sauce

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Sponge cakes are European-style cakes, like the French génoise, and are a fundamental block in your cake-building repertoire. Unlike butter cakes and chiffon cakes, sponge cakes include little or no fat, other than what's in the egg yolks. Traditional recipes produce cakes leavened only by the air beaten into the eggs, not by baking powder or soda.

Sponge cakes are used in layer cakes, charlottes, jelly rolls, and tiramisu (either as a sheet or piped into ladyfingers). Madeleines are also a version of sponge cakes.

Since fat acts as a tenderizer, plain sponge cakes can be dry and seem tough. When soaked with simple syrup and flavorings, sponge cakes are delectable.

This cake supposedly arrived in this country by way of Thomas Jefferson who copied the recipe while abroad and sent it back to his cooks at Monticello.  For many years it was also identified with the city of Savannah from where this recipe comes.  It was very popular in the 50's and 60's and I still remember the one made by a store called the A&P which was where my mother shopped for groceries.  The store and the cake somehow disappeared from the radar and I hadn't thought about it until I saw and made this recipe last night.  Well, it won't be forgotten for long, it is a delectable way to serve fruit in the summer as an alternative to the heavier shortcake.  The Madeira Sauce which accompanies the cake is something else.  That is where the fat is but don't have a hissy fit yet. won't be eating all the sauce, just about 1 tablespoon (or two) and then you might lick the remnants before you put the pan in the sink...that's all!.


5 eggs

1 cup white sugar

1 large lemon

4 ounces cake flour (sifted)

1/4 teaspoon salt

powdered sugar


Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Grate rind of the lemon into small glass bowl.  Juice lemon through a strainer into the bowl and let seep while you prepare batter. 

Butter and flour 9 inch  cake pan.

Separate the eggs. In a large mixing bowl, beat egg yolks until very thick and lemon colored. Beat in sugar gradually. add lemon extract and lemon rind..

In another bowl, beat egg whites with the salt until frothy Beat mixture until whites are stiff, but not until they are dry. Add flour. Fold this whipped mixture and flour into yolk mixture.

Pour batter into prepared pan.  Bake at 300 degrees F  for 45 minutes or until done.

Dust with powdered sugar. It makes a delicious tea cake or can be used for triffle, charlotte, or tiramisu.

For dessert, serve with strawberries and blueberries and Sweet Madeira Sauce (follows)

Sweet Madeira Sauce

1/2 cup medium dry Madeira wine

3 to 4 TBS sugar

10 Tbs or 1 1/4 stick cold unsalted butter cut into small bits

1/4 to 1.2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg. or lemon or orange zest


Put wine in small saucepan, add sugar and stir until dissolved.  Bring to simmer over medium heat.  Reduce to low and remove pan from heat.

Whisk is 3 or 4 bits butter until almost melted.  Continue with rest of the butter a few bits at a time until it becomes a thick cream.  Do not bring to a boil.  I added the nutmeg and left it to come to room temperature.

Ladle some in bottom of plate, cut a slice of cake and place over it.  Put some strawberries and/or blueberries on the side.

Recipe and photo The Savannah Cookbook by Damon L. Fowler

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Summer Squash Gratin

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This is my favorite summer squash gratin (okay, casserole) that I made when I lived in North Carolina. I have never had any desire to experiment with other recipes... it was that good.  Easy to make, great with pork!


1 stick butter

1 pkg. Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix

2 lb. squash, cooked

4 oz.diced pimento

2. finely chopped onions (small)

2 grated carrots

1 can cream of chicken soup

1 cup sour cream


Melt butter. Add stuffing mix. Mix well. Line bottom of casserole dish with 1/2 stuffing miss, reserving rest for top.

Cook squash in salted water, drain and mash. Combine remaining ingredients and pour into casserole dish. Sprinkle top with reserved stuffing. Bake 30-40 minutes at 350 degrees.

Image Getty

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Dinner Party Fare...Stuffed Roast Pork Tenderloin with Fig And Balsamic Chutney

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There are some recipes that are so versatile they can be served hot for an elegant dinner party or cold for a ladies luncheon on the terrace.  This pork tenderloin is one of them and I am going to prove it to you!

The recipe is very loosely adapted from Thomas Keller, he of the French Laundry, Bouchon and others and is very similar to one I had cold at a very elegant lunch in upstate New York.  I was so impressed, I remember the menu to this day. Of course it was a beautiful setting, a racing horse farm with an elegant Federal house that had belonged to a former New York governor.

Stuffed Pork Tenderloin With Fig Balsamic Chutney
(Printable Recipe)

Make the chutney first:


1 lbs  Dried or fresh Figs chopped
1/4 cup Balsamic Vinegar
1 cup sugar
1 cup beef broth

Put everything in a pan bring to a boil and lower to simmer until reduced.  Cool in a glass container and leave at room temperature.  If it is a little runny it's okay, you want to spoon some over the pork.  It will firm up in the refrigerator and can be stored up to a week or two.


8 figs dried or fresh, finely minced
4 slices of prosciutto finely minced
2 TB dried bread crums
2TB. orange juice
2 TB pine nuts
finely chopped parsley

Mix everything in a bowl and set aside.  The bread crumbs aand orange juice are what binds this together so use a little discretion adding more bread crumbs or less oranje juice as needed.

For the Roast.

1 pork tenderloin in two pieces*
juice of 1 bitter orange
1 chopped onion
4 garlic cloves mashed
canola oil
Salt & Pepper

Marinade the pork loin in the bitter orange juice, chopped onions and mashed garlic for at least 4 hours.   As an an alternative, you can marinade in Goya's Mojo Criollo marinade which has all of these ingredients.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Remove and dry.  Take one of the pork pieces lay it flat on a cutting board and spread the stuffing along the length of the loin. Place the other piece on top. Tie the roast at 1 1/4 inch intervals with kitchen twine.  Do not tie so tight that the stuffing comes out. Spread pepper and kosher salt all over the loin.

Place 2 TB of canola oil in a dutch oven or frying pan and brown the roast about 5 minutes on each side.  Transfer to a rack on top of a roasting pan and place in the oven.  Roast  for 30 minutes. If you notice the pork is not browning enough, bring temperature up to 400 degrees, remember not all ovens are created equal. Remove from the oven, spread  some of the fig chutney with a brush all around and return to oven for 5 more minutes.  Remove from the oven and let rest 30 MINUTES.  This is important, don't skim.

Cut in 1/4 inch slices* and arrange the slices on a platter., drizzle some of the chutney (which should still be a little runny) on top and place the rest in a bowl to serve alongside.

The pork will be a light pink and juicy.  When you cut it, you might have to hold the slices together with your left hand to hold the stuffing inside.

**you can substitute a 2 1/2 lbs pork loin. which you can stuff by making a horizontal lengthwise cut with a knife halfway from one side and meeting with another cut from the other side.

Menu suggestions:

Stuffed Roast Pork Tenderloin With Fig Balsamic Chutney

French Green Beans

Stay tuned for the second version!

It;s Foodie Friday. Let's see what's cooking at Designs by Gollum

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Father's Day Menu

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Here's a Father's Day Menu everyone can enjoy.  Everything is on the grill or make ahead so when the big day comes the whole family can relax.  Why don't you get Dad a new apron and while you are at it, these might come in handy too. I think they are the greatest thing since sliced bread!

By the way, if you are a single Mom, this is your day too.  Heaven knows what it takes to raise kids without a Dad. Enjoy!

Father's Day Menu

White or Yellow Saffron Rice

For last year's Father's Day Menu check here

For more gadgets for Dad check Diner's Journal, NYT
Photo courtesy Wilson Rothman, NYT

Monday, June 14, 2010

Dinner in 10 Minutes...Penne with Spinach, Goat Cheese and Prosciutto

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It's been one of those tough weeks when everything seems to come together and require a major decision. I get these every five years or so and by now I just sit back and let 'er rip! For those of you familiar with the Tarot, this is the dreaded Tower card.

Obviously, dinner is the farthest thing from my mind right now. Luckily, I'm well organized and stocked up so at times like these, I can always pull something together in a pinch. Every ingredient in the pasta sauce was in the refrigerator or the pantry. If you also have a frozen baguette and a nice bottle of wine, like I always do, you will have a very enjoyable meal.

If you are new to my blog, I suggest you check out one of my first posts on what everyone should have in their pantry.  It is particularly useful at times like these. ( If you want a good laugh, check out the comments left by my children--  They are now banned for life..).

The original recipe is from Giada de Laurentis, but seeing that we were only having this as our main dish, I added some prosciutto and the pine nuts. I also altered some measurements.

Serves 6

(Printable Recipe)


1 pound penne
3 garlic cloves
2 ounces goat cheese
1 ounce cream cheese
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
4 oz. prosciutto
Pine nuts


Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the penne and cook until it is tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 12 minutes.

Mince the garlic in a food processor. Add the goat cheese, cream cheese, 3/4 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of pepper, and the spinach leaves. Blend until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Set the cheese and spinach mixture aside.

Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Scrape the cheese and spinach mixture over the pasta mixture and toss to coat, adding enough reserved cooking liquid to moisten. Add the prosciutto and the pine nuts. Season the pasta, to taste, with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the Parmesan over the pasta and serve.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Thai Red Curry Fish Stew

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If you have been watching the news, you know that fresh fish will be hard to come by this summer and possibly for a few summers to come.  When I lived in Florida, in a key off the city of Miami, it was easy to go down to the docks and pick out any fresh fish in season, but now that I live in land locked Georgia I have had to adapt to new ways of cooking what is available.  That leaves me with lake fish such as striped bass, which is not my favorite, and flash frozen from the supermarket, Costco or Trader Joe's.

When you get freshly caught fish off the docks, all you need to do is add a little oil, garlic and lemon to the pan and you have a masterpiece.  Unfortunately, with flash frozen, no matter how good, you need to be more creative.  I have found that aside from breading and frying, Thai recipes, with their aromatic sauces, provide a great alternative.

Versions of red curry abound in Thailand, but most are flavored with a paste of red chiles, garlic, shallots, galangal (similar to ginger), and shrimp paste, and have coconut milk as their base. Light coconut milk works well in this stew, and prepared Thai red curry paste, found in most supermarkets, makes it a snap to put together. The spice level in prepared red curry pastes varies depending on the brand, so taste before using. Start with 2 tbsp., then increase it if you like. For a more authentic flavor, add 1 tbsp. minced lemon grass and 2 makrut (Kaffir) lime leaves instead of the grated lime zest in step 4, and use Thai basil instead of regular. Find these ingredients at Asian markets and in specialty-produce departments.

I have plenty of Thai and other recipes for preparing fish so don't despair.  Necessity is the mother of invention and we will get by.

Prep and Cook time: 45 minutes

Yield:  Makes 6 servings (serving size: 1 1/2 cups of curry and 1 cup of rice)


3 cups jasmine rice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 large sweet potato or yam

2 cans (13 1/2 oz. each) light coconut milk, divided

2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste

2 teaspoons freshly grated lime zest (green part only)

2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce

2 tablespoons firmly packed dark brown sugar

1 1/2 pounds firm fish fillets, such as halibut or tilapia (salmon should work also)

6 ounces fresh whole spinach leaves

1 cup loosely packed basil (Thai basil is best)

1 cup loosely packed mint leaves

Lime wedges


1. Bring 6 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add rice and salt. Cover and reduce heat to low. Cook 15 minutes, then turn off heat and let sit 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and cover to keep warm until ready to serve.

2. Meanwhile, bring 1 in. of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Peel sweet potato and cut into 1/2-in. cubes. Put in a steamer basket over boiling water. Cover and steam until tender, about 10 minutes. Set aside.

3. While sweet potato is cooking, spoon about 1/4 cup from top of coconut milk in each can (the thick opaque layer) and put in a 4- to 5-qt. pot or deep sauté pan. Add curry paste and whisk until smoothly blended. Stir mixture over medium heat until nearly dry, 3 to 5 minutes.

4. Reduce heat to medium-low and add remaining coconut milk, lime zest, fish sauce, and brown sugar. Simmer 5 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, cut fish into 1 1/2-in. cubes. Increase heat to medium; add fish and spinach. Cover and cook until fish is no longer translucent, 5 to 7 minutes.

6. Chop basil and mint and stir into stew along with sweet potato cubes. Serve with rice and lime wedges.

Notes: Yukon Gold potatoes work nicely in place of sweet potato and have a similar cooking time.

Wine pairings: A chilled white burgundy or rose

Sunset Magazine
Photo Leo Gong

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Tapas... Fried Garbanzos

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At the beginning of the year I promised to post some tapas recipes and somehow I got sidetracked when it got cold and we all switched to comfort food.  Well here is one that was on the pike that never got published.  Fried garbanzos or chickpeas are very easy to make and come in handy when you have unexpected guests for cocktails or as part of a tapas buffet.  Place some toothpicks on the side so everyone can help themselves.

Nowadays you can find Pimenton de la Vera in most grocery stores.  I have even seen it at Marshall's!


Olive oil, for frying

1 15-ounce can garbanzos or chickpeas, drained and rinsed

Coarse salt

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon Pimenton (Spanish wood-smoked paprika)


Rinse and dry chickpeas thoroughly with paper towels. Set an iron skillet to medium high and add enough olive oil to reach a depth of 1/2 inch.

Slowly add chickpeas to oil, being careful as they may splatter. Fry chickpeas, stirring frequently, until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined baking sheet to drain. Season with salt and pimenton, if desired. Let cool completely, and store in an airtight container.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

What to Drink This Summer...French Rose'

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What is it that makes Americans so squeamish about French roses? I think it's because a majority of them grew up looking at pink bottles of sweet white zinfandel from California!   

French Roses are dry wines which are not truly red, but have enough of a reddish tinge to make them assuredly not white. The actual color varies depending on the grapes involved, and often may seem to be more orange than pink or purple. Rose wines may be produced in a number of different ways, depending on the desired results. Most Rose wines are the result of crushing the red grapes used rather early on, so that they are not able to impart their color – or much tannin – to the final wine. These wines are in most respects white in character and flavor, with only the tinge of red and some subtle taste differences belying the difference.

Rose wines are not "serious" wines, they are just delightful wines meant primarily for Summer consumption due to their crispness and lightness.  They are very refreshing in hot weather. Styles vary widely, but in general, a Rose wine is much simpler than a true heavyweight white or red wine – even if made from the same grapes. European Rose wines are generally dry, while Rose wines from the United States are generally sweet. Sometimes, this distinction is highlighted by referring to sweet Rose wines as Blush. 

If you go to the South of France in the summer, or anywhere in France for that matter, you will see most every bucket in the restaurants filled with a bottle of rose, especially at lunch.  The last time I had lunch at the fabled Hotel du Cap in Antibes, 10 out of 10 ice buckets were filled with a different bottle of rose!

Hotel du Cap, Cap 'Antibes

The wonderful thing about them is how refreshing they are and how they go with everything you like to eat when it's hot, from salads to grilled fish to pastas and panini.  They are economical too, at about half the price of the white Burgundies we all enjoy so much.

French roses, make an alfresco lunch rather elegant and sophisticated and they will greatly complement any cold menu.  They are wonderful also with hot rice dishes like paella and risotto, especially if you serve them on a hot day.  If you are having a bouillabaisse, don't even think twice! So, take the lead and serve them this summer.  You will be pleasantly surprised and so will your guests.

My favorite roses:

Domaines Ott, Chateau Romassan

Chateau d'Esclans, Cotes de Provence

Domaine Houchart

La Colonie

Chateau d'Aqueria, Tavel Rose

Mas de Gourgonniere, Les Baux de Provence

Mas de la Louviere, Bandol 
$49 for a magnum

I have drank all of these throughout the years (and then some) and highly recommend them.  Probably the most available is Houchart.  La Colonie is a favorite of Sherry Lehman's, but my least favorite.  If money were no object, Chateau Romassan or Chateau de Selles, both produced by Domaines Ott would be it for me, but after the first glass they all taste great.

All these wines can be found at Sherry-Lehman in NYC.  A good wine store should have at least a couple of the one I've recommended..

Photos Google and Sherry Lehman

Monday, June 7, 2010

Sweet Peas With Prosciutto...Piselli al Prosciutto

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This is really an antipasto, at least that is how they serve it, "when in Rome".  To me, it's a delightful side dish which can be served with anything, particularly lamb. I have added some mint now that it's plentiful.



1⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 oz. prosciutto, roughly chopped

1 small white onion, minced

1 lb. fresh or frozen green peas

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper,
to taste

Mint for garnish (my idea)

Directions1. Heat oil in a 12" skillet over medium heat. Add prosciutto and onions; cook until onions are soft and prosciutto begins to crisp, 6–8 minutes.

2. Add peas and 1 tbsp. water; cook, tossing, until hot, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

This recipe was first published in Saveur issue #128
Photo: Todd Coleman

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Kluge Picnic Hamper And Others For the Rest Of Us

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Yesterday as I was researching this post,  I noticed Emily Evans Eerdman had just come out with a post on Christy's auction of the contents of Albemarle House, Patricia Kluge's estate in Virginia.  As I looked into it some more, I realized that after the Kluge divorce, John Kluge remarried and built another house nearby, Molvern, whose contents had been auctioned, also by Christy's, in 2005.  This incredible picnic hamper which had caught my attention and was to be the piece de resistance of this post, was part of that auction.  To read more, click article from the NYT which appeared in December 2005.

Commissioned in the 1980's by the Kluges from the London firm of Asprey, jewellers and silversmith to the British Royal Family, this picnic hamper is undoubtedly  the pinnacle of sophistication. Containing a full service of just about everything imaginable for a party of sixteen, the hamper can be towed to the perfect picnic location by hooking it to the back of a tractor. The wicker trailer holds about 15 wicker cases, each fitted with brass handles and leather straps, with battery-powered hot and cold boxes and a water pump, cases for Bernardaud Limoges china, Baccarat crystal, Asprey silver cutlery, a staghorn bar service, two folding mahogany tables and 16 chairs, each with the monogram "K." The set was estimated at $20,000 to $30,000 and sold for a whopping $144,000.

Although day-trippers have used wicker carryalls since the 1700s, the true picnic basket was born in 1901, when British luxury-goods retailers like Asprey started stocking hampers filled with tableware for motorists to enjoy on country drives. While modern options start at about $80, this four-person set from 1908 — made by travel outfitter G.W. Scott & Sons, and complete with copper kettle and burner — recently sold at auction for $3,500.

If you can forget for a minute the Kluge picnic hamper and concentrate on reality, here are some pretty and practical hampers.  I know its hard, just try...

Faux-leather trim and a plaid lining give Sutherland Baskets' two-setting case western flavor. ($54.99;

Optima fills its handmade cases with vintage china, glassware, and embroidered linens for two. ($350;

The Bargain Picnic Basket

Simple mugs say brunch; a corkscrew means this set can handle cocktail hour for four, too. ($43.99;

There's always the metro picnic basket which you can initial to add a touch of chic!

For more on picnics and getting organized click here

Friday, June 4, 2010

Gelato di Melone...Cantaloupe Sorbetto

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The canteloupes are here and the one I had yesterday was superb.  Last year at about this time, I posted on one of my favorite restaurants in this world, Ousteau de Beaumaniere, where I learned to pair melon and prosciutto with Muscat de Beames de Venise.  I suggest you check it out and rush out to buy a bottle.  It will just make your weekend.

If you get a second melon, this is one of the nicest sorbettos you could ever taste, where you feel you are actually tasting the fruit since it has no milk or cream whatsoever.  Only make it if you have an outstanding melon... it is the main ingredient.

A granite made of Muscat de Beaumes de Venise (a sweet dessert wine), with melon and melon sorbet at Ousteau de Beaumaniere


1 cup minus 1 tablespoon superfine granulated sugar

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon bottled or filtered still water (not distilled)

1 cantaloupe (about 3 pounds)

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon lightly beaten egg white*


In a small heavy saucepan heat sugar and water, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Cool syrup. Cut rind from melon and discard seeds. Cut melon into chunks and in a food processor purée enough to measure 2 cups. Transfer purée to a bowl and stir in syrup and lemon juice. Chill melon mixture until cold and up to 1 day.

Stir in egg white and freeze in an ice-cream maker. Serve sorbetto immediately or transfer to an airtight container and put in freezer to harden no more than 3 hours

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Smoked Trout, Cucumber And Tomato Salad

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Would you believe I just visited my first Trader Joe's a couple of months ago?  Yep, it happened on the way back to the lake from visiting my granddaughter in Atlanta.  There were none near where I lived in Miami, so this is as close as I have ever gotten to one.  I was so excited my knees were shaking ...

I'll have to say I was a bit disappointed, not exactly what I thought it would be;  but I will tell you what did impress me...  the cheese department and some of the frozen fish, such as mahi-mahi which I haven't had since I moved here from Florida.  The price is terrific, $5.64 for a pound of freshly frozen mahi mahi from Peru.  I made my recipe last night with a citrus soy marinade and it was better and less expensive than the frozen fish I get at the grocery store.  If you can't get fresh, freshly frozen is the way to go.

One of the exciting things I also found at the store was a tin of smoked trout.  I have been wanting to try this in a salad for a long time and I finally did.  Try substituting goat cheese for feta and dill for chives for another day. This will be terrific this summer, so stock up!

I think Trader Joe's is great for young couples, with or without families.  My son and daughter in law love it and go there all the time.  They find the ready made frozen meals and the Two Buck Chuck a great buy.  No comment...but I think some of the old timers like me might find it a bit... been there, done that!

(serves 2-3)


250-300g hot smoked ocean trout, skin removed

1 long Lebanese cucumber, peeled and cut into small chunks

2-3 ripe yellow or red tomatoes, cut in half and then sliced into half rounds

handful chives, sliced into fine rounds

Persian feta, crumbled (goat cheese would be fine also)

baby radishes, finely sliced (optional)

For the dressing:

juice of half a large lemon

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper


Flake the hot smoked ocean trout. Gently toss it with the cucumber, tomatoes and chives in a large bowl. Add the fetta, pour over the dressing and toss lightly again. Arrange on serving plates.
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