Monday, January 31, 2011

Tequila Mexican Cheese Dip

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In this cheese dip, better known as queso fundido in Spanish, the tequila not only shines through but gives the melted cheese a luscious texture. Typical salsa ingredients (tomato, onion, chile, cilantro) mingle with the cheese, to make an unforgetable mexican dip. This dip needs to be eaten as soon as it's made or kept warm (for a relatively short time) in a chafing dish.  Don't worry, before you know it, it will be all gone!

I like to accompany with homemade tortilla chips. 


1 Tbs. olive oil

1 large ripe tomato, cored, seeded (if you wish) and cut into 1/4-inch pieces

1 medium white onion, cut into 1/4-inch pieces

Hot green chile(s) to taste, (roughly 1 large jalapeño or 2 large serranos), stemmed, seeded  and finely chopped

3 Tbs. tequila, preferably a silver tequila

8 oz. Mexican melting cheese (such as Chihuahua, quesadilla or asadero) or Monterey Jack, mild cheddar or brick, shredded (you'll have about 2 cups)

1/2 cup (loosely packed) chopped cilantro (thick bottom stems cut off)


Heat the oil in a large (10-inch) skillet over medium-high. Add the tomato, onion and chile(s), and cook, stirring constantly, until the onion begins to soften and brown, about 7 minutes. Add the tequila and cook, stirring, for a minute or so, until reduced to a glaze. (If you tip the pan toward an open gas flame, the tequila will ignite. If you choose this route, simply shake the pan back and forth until the flames subside and the tequila has reduced to a glaze.)

With the skillet of tequila-infused vegetables over medium-low, sprinkle in the cheese. Stir slowly and constantly until just melted-too long over the heat and the cheese will become tough, oily and stringy. Scoop into a warm dish, sprinkle with the cilantro and serve right away with chips to dip.

Check out the Hot Black Bean Dip With Chipotle in the country blog

and Super Bowl Menus And Recipes

Adapted from Rick Bayles

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Andre Soltner's Alsatian Pizza

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If I can make pizza, you definitely can make pizza.  Of course, I don't make the dough, I buy it.  Then I simply let it stand for 30 minutes until it rises, pound it as hard as if it were a letter from the IRS and roll it as thin as I can.  That is the hardest part, for pizza dough is a tough cookie to deal with.

I recently bought myself the Emile Henri Pizza Stone which I featured in my Christmas gifts post

Emile Henry Flame Top Pizza Stone, Black

and I have been making pizzas left and right.  This, aside from the Margherita, is by far my most favorite pizza. 

If you happen to have a Publix where you live, their pizza dough .which is sold in the bakery, is pretty good.

For those of you not familiar with Andre Soltner, he was the legendary chef/owner of Lutece, once considered the best restaurant in New York and where I was lucky to have many a memorable meal in the 80's.  It is long gone but his recipes and his reputation will live fovever.  Andre Soltner was born in Alsace, need I say more?

 Makes 4 Servings


1/2 pound frozen pizza or bread dough, thawed

1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup fromage blanc or fresh ricotta

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1/2 cup crème fraîche or sour cream

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1/4 pound thickly sliced smoky bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch strips

1 medium onion, thinly sliced


1.Divide the dough into 4 pieces. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out each piece to a 4-inch round; let rest for 10 minutes. Roll each round out to an 8-inch round 1/8 inch thick.

2.Lightly oil 2 large baking sheets with 2 teaspoons of the olive oil. Transfer 2 dough rounds to each baking sheet. Fold each edge over onto itself to form a thin lip. Refrigerate the dough rounds until chilled, about 1/2 hour.

3.In a food processor, pulse the fromage blanc until smooth. Add the flour, crème fraîche and the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and process until smooth.

4.In a medium skillet, cook the bacon over moderate heat until the fat is rendered, about 4 minutes. Add the onion and cook just until softened, about 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool.

5.Preheat the oven to 425°. Spread the fromage blanc mixture over the rounds to within 1/4 inch of the edge. Sprinkle with the bacon and onion. Bake on the bottom shelf of the oven for about 12 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. Cut into wedges and serve.


Cutting bacon is easiest when the slices are chilled and stacked. Make sure to use a very sharp knife or kitchen shears to keep the slices neat. Note: This recipe yields four servings as main course, but as an appetizer in this menu, it makes plenty for eight.

The stone should be warmed in the oven at 425 for at least 30 minutes.  I sprinkle coarse corn meal on the stone before I lay down the pizza.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Butterscotch Pudding

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Is there any dessert more comforting than pudding? Of the trio of vanilla, chocolate and butterscotch flavors, the last one arguably has the most dedicated fans. But many people have tasted only the boxed kind. Here is the real deal, infused with caramel and the rich flavor of butter. Definitely not for those who are watching their weight!

Serves 4 to 6


6 large egg yolks

1/3 cup plus 1 Tbs. cornstarch

3 cups milk

6 Tbs. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter

Pinch of fine sea salt

1 1/4 cups sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Whipped cream for serving


In a heatproof bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, cornstarch and 1/2 cup of the milk until well blended. Set aside.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the remaining 2 1/2 cups milk, the butter and salt and heat, stirring frequently, until the butter is melted. Set aside and cover to keep warm.

In a large saucepan, combine the sugar and 1/4 cup water and stir to moisten the sugar. Place over high heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Stop stirring and cook, brushing down any crystals that form on the inside of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water and occasionally swirling the saucepan by its handle, until the sugar turns a deep golden brown caramel. The caramel will have a toasty aroma, and you may see some wisps of smoke.

Reduce the heat to low. Gradually and very carefully stir the warm milk mixture into the caramel; the mixture will boil furiously. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is smooth and the caramel is completely dissolved. Gradually whisk the hot caramel mixture into the egg mixture. Return the mixture to the saucepan, set over medium heat and heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture comes to a full boil. Strain through a coarse-mesh sieve placed over a bowl. Stir in the vanilla.

Press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pudding, and pierce the plastic a few times with a knife tip to allow the steam to escape. Let cool to lukewarm, then refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours.

Layer the chilled pudding and whipped cream evenly in 4 to 6 parfait glasses or footed bowls. Serve immediately, or refrigerate for up to 8 hours before serving. 

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Comfort Food, by Rick Rodgers (Oxmoor House, 2009).

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Broiled Flounder With Parmesan Cheese Topping

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Flounder makes for a quick and light dinner for two on any given night of the week.  It takes no time to broil and really requires no marinade if you cook it with a light sauce.  Yellow rice, cream spinach or broiled tomatoes make for delicious side dishes.

For a variation, add a little mustard to the cheese mix.

Serves 4

4 (6-ounce) flounder fillets

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Old Bay Seasoning

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup butter, softened

3 tablespoons mayonnaise

3 finely chopped green onions

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon hot pepper sauce


Preheat broiler.

Place fish flat or in rolls in a greased, shallow baking pan . Sprinkle with lemon juice and Old Bay.

In a small bowl combine Parmesan cheese, butter, mayonnaise, green onions, salt and hot pepper sauce; set aside.

Broil flounder for 4 to 6 minutes, or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Remove from oven and spread cheese mixture on top. Broil an additional 30 seconds, or until cheese is lightly browned and bubbly. Serve warm.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Stuffed Quail With Chestnuts In A Red Wine Sauce

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One of the advantages of living in the South is that quail is readily available in most supermarkets and specialty stores.  Unfortunately, quail is something most people don't cook at home and only think of ordering when they see it on the menu at a fancy restaurant.  They are just as easy to cook as chicken and if you look for them or ask your grocer, you will be surprised to find them, usually in boxes, where the frozen turkeys and ducks are kept.  Remember, though, that they are tiny little things, usually smaller than you remember, so you will need at least 2 per person.

I am posting this recipe at this time because you might just be lucky enough to find bottled chestnuts on sale after the holidays.  It really beats having to shell and roast fresh ones.  I understand Trader Joe's carries them so check for them next time you visit the store.



4 cups roasted, shelled and skinned chestnuts (2 pounds in shell or about 4 (7½- ounce) jars peeled whole)

1 bay leaf

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3 large shallots, thinly sliced

6 tablespoons port

5 tablespoons cognac

Freshly ground black pepper

12 semiboneless quail

1 small onion, quartered

1 medium carrot, cut into 4 pieces

1 celery stalk, cut into 4 pieces

5 sprigs fresh thyme

1 garlic clove, peeled

½ cup full-bodied red wine

1 teaspoon cornstarch

2 tablespoons water

kitchen string; wooden picks


Bring a large saucepan of salted water to boil; add chestnuts and bay leaf; cook until chestnuts are tender, about 20 minutes. Drain chestnuts; discard bay leaf.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat; add shallots and cook, stirring frequently, until lightly golden, about 3 minutes. Add all but 18 chestnuts (reserve these for later); cook, stirring and mashing chestnuts in pan with a fork for 2 minutes. Stir in 4 tablespoons port and 3 tablespoons cognac. Continue cooking, stirring constantly, until stuffing is fairly dry, about 2 minutes; season to taste with salt and pepper, then spread on a plate to cool.

Discard any disposable metal skewers from cavity of each quail, then rinse quail inside and out and pat dry. Stuff 1 quail with 3 tablespoons stuffing, pressing and shaping it to fill out breast. Tie legs together with string and push legs up against body. Thread cavity closed with a wooden pick. Repeat with remaining quail.

Put oven rack in middle position and heat oven to 350°.

Season quail with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Brown 6 quail on all sides, about 10 minutes total. Transfer quail, breast side up, to a large shallow baking pan. Wipe skillet clean and brown remaining 6 quail in same manner in remaining tablespoon oil, transferring quail to baking pan once browned.

Add onion, carrot, celery, thyme, garlic and 1 tablespoon cognac to skillet. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring and scraping up any browned bits, for 2 minutes. Scatter reserved chestnuts, onion, carrot, celery, thyme and garlic around pan with quail.

Remove strings and picks from quail, then roast quail until just cooked through (cut into inner thigh; meat will be slightly pink), 6 to 8 minutes.

Transfer quail to a serving dish. In a small saucepan, combine wine, remaining 2 tablespoons port and remaining tablespoon cognac; bring to a boil, then remove from heat. Dissolve cornstarch in water and stir into sauce; bring to a simmer, remove from heat and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve quail with sauce.

You might also enjoy:

Roast Quail With Fresh Figs And Balsamic

Adapted from La Cucina Italiana

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Cheese Souffle

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Did you know I am a closet cook? Yep, sometimes when I am all by myself I practice stuff that I'm not good at, like souffles.  About a month ago my friend The Corinthian Column, an art collector, put me to shame with a gorgeous blue cheese souffle that he posted on his site.  Well!  Little did he know that souffles have always been my Achilles heel and just the thought of having to make one makes me weak at the knees.

When I was learning to cook, souffles were the domain of the great French chefs.  When my mother came back from her lessons at the Cordon Bleu, she could make two things that I know of...French Onion soup and a cheese souffle.  To watch her set up for tackling a souffle was like watching a general plan strategy for an important battle.  That kind of put a damper for me but I knew that if I ever wanted to be a real cook, sooner or later I would have to make a decent souffle.  Not spectacular...just decent.

Throughtout my cooking career, every time I tackled a new recipe it was never good enough in my eyes.  The more I tried, the more disappointed I became, so I stopped.  That is, until a couple of days ago.  Going through one of the French cookbooks at Barnes & Noble,  this recipe caught my eye mainly beause it was for a small souffle;  secondly, because it was so simple...well, even a caveman could do it; and third because it was by none other than Francoise Bernard the grande dame of French popular cuisine.

I quickly jotted down the ingredients in a piece of paper, together with the oven temperature and the time and off I went to conquer the beast.  The result...well I don't need to tell you, just look for yourself.  As for the good as any souffle I've had in France or at La Grenouille where they serve it with a cheese sauce on the side (we'll tackle this later).

The recipe is really for two and was made in two 5 inch souffle dishes, buttered and coated with grated Gruyere cheese.

Oven Temperature 350 degrees for 25 minutes

First make a cup of bechamel with 2 TB. butter, 2TB flour and 1 cup of milk.  Melt the butter, add the flour cook for a minute and add 1 cup of hot whole milk.  Cook until it almost comes to a boil.  The sauce will be nice and thick.

Add 3/4 cups grated Gruyere cheese to the sauce, salt and pepper.  I added a little cayenne pepper also.

Separate 3 eggs and add the yolks to the bechamel sauce. Mix well.

With a portable mixer*, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks.  Make sure you beat well or souffle won't rise.  With a wooden spoon take some of the whites and incorporate into the sauce and then fold the rest carefully so as not to deflate.  Don't do this too much, it's okay if you have some patches of white "clouds".  

Fill the two souffle molds leaving about 1/2 inch at the top. I inserted a finger in one and went around the rim.  I didn't do it with the second and it really didn't make a difference.  Place in the preheated oven.

Pour yourself a glass of rose and mix a simple green salad.  By the time you are finished, your souffle will be done.

The moral of the story...When making a souffle, don't over think it!

 Note:  Do not open that door! turn the light on and watch to your heart's content.  When you see that it looks like mine, you have conquered the beast!
*It is better to beat this small quantity of egg whites with a portable mixer, if you have one.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Cheese Course...A Brief Primer

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Americans, to put it mildly, don't know how to eat cheese.  And why should they? Aside from Wisconsin or Vermont cheddar, cheese is not something Americans have grown up with.  Our idea of cheese is melted over a hamburger, sliced for ham and cheese sandwiches or as part of a tray carelessly put together to keep away the hunger pangs before a meal.  Worse of all, we serve it straight from the refrigerator.

In Europe, particularly in France, cheese is as venerated  and enjoyed almost as much as wine. Wine and cheese have many similarities including the fact that both are fermented, complex and have a rich heritage.  Just as wine can be made from different grapes, cheese can be made from the milk of different animals.  Where the grapes are grown and how they are cultivated will be reflected in the wine, just as where the animals live and what they eat will be reflected in the cheese.    That is why terroir is just as important when pairing cheese with wine as it is when pairing wines with food.  In other words, if it grows together it goes together.  It's as simple as that.

Getting to know the delights of cheese can be an intimidating prospect, if only because of the astounding number of varieties available. Humankind has been engaged in creating different cheeses ever since the process was discovered by accident at least 10,000 years ago. France alone produces over 500 different varieties of cheese and there are at least a thousand individually named varieties worldwide.

Cheese categories And Wine Pairings

 The following are categories of cheese and suggested wine pairings. Most people prefer serving the softer, more delicately flavored cheeses with lighter, fruitier wines. As the cheeses become more flavorful and assertive, you should select from heartier, more intensely-flavored wines. Some cheese experts point out that you can sometimes set up delicious pairings by deliberately contrasting flavors. Some soft creamy cheeses go very well with complex, full-bodied wines.

In general, cheese and wine produced near the same region marry well. For example, serve Sancerre wines with Crottin de Chavignol or a Vin de Jura with Comte. But what’s most important is that neither overwhelms the other. Thus robust blue cheeses should be matched with equally strong red wines*, while more delicate, creamier cheeses need an intense white or fruity red wine. Spanish sherries, both dry and sweet are excellent partners for many cheeses; especially those from Spain. The bottom line here is that your own personal preference should prevail.

I.  Fresh, rindless cheese: unripened, moist and quite soft, with a high water content. Those made from cows milk tend to be mild in flavor; goat and sheep milk have stronger flavors.

Examples: French Chevre  (mild to tangy) and Montrachet (slightly tangy), Greek Feta (salty and milky), Mozzarella (mild), Italian Robiola (mild and creamy) and Ricotta (mild).

Wine Pairing: Brut champagne/ sparkling; Pinot Blanc; Pinot Gris; crisp, high-acid Sauvignon Blanc, such as Pouilly-Fume and Sancerre; Beaujolais; Chenin Blanc; or Vouvray.

II. Soft-ripened :bloomy rind with soft edible skin. When fully ripe and at room temperature, center is runny.

Examples: French Brie (mild and buttery to pungent) and Camembert (slightly acidic and earthy); triple-cremes such as French Gratte-Paille (artisanal cheese), Brillat-Savarin, Explorateur , and Saint-Andre (all rich and buttery).

Wine Pairing: Brut Champagne/sparkling; lighter, dry styles of Riesling and Chenin Blanc; Beaujolias, Cabernet Sauvignon; fruitier styles of Pinot Noir and Merlot.

III. Semi-Soft washed-rind cheeses (the rinds have been rubbed or washed during the ripening process) .

Examples: French Pont-l’ Eveque, Epoisses, and Livarot (very strong artisanal cheese); Munster from Alsace, Italian Taleggio (mild and buttery); and Spanish Mahon.

Wine Pairing: sturdy red wines such as Syrah, Barolo, Barbaresco, weightier Pinot Noir or Burgundy.

IV. Semi-Soft : aged and protected by an inedible wax rind. Can be sliced, but difficult to grate.

Examples: Italian Bel Paese (mild and sweet); Dutch Gouda and Edam (salty and tangy depending on age), American Brick (mild to strong depending on age), Italian Fontina (nutty and smoky) and Bel Paese; French Port-Salut (mellow to sharp) and Reblochon (mild and creamy).

Wine Pairing: Chardonnay and oak-matured Sauvignon Blanc (Fume Blanc); Alsace Riesling,; Gewurztraminer; Viognier; Roussanne and Marsanne; Pinot Noir.

V. Hard: drier and firmer than semi-soft and aged for varying lengths of time. Can be sliced and grated.

Examples: French Cantal (nutty and mild to sharp); English or American Cheddar (mild to sharp depending on age); Swiss or Emmenthaler (sweet and nutty); Spanish Manchego (mellow, but full flavored); American Monterey Jack (mild to mellow) and Italian Provolone (mild to sharp).

Wine Pairing: Fino and Amontillado Sherries, Barbera, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Merlot, Mourvedre, Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, Syrah, Tempranillo.

VI. Blue-Veined: Injected with a mold to produce veining prior to ripening. Consistencies vary from creamy to dry and crumbly.

Examples: French Bleu du Bresse (piquant, but milder than most blues), and Roquefort (sharp and pungent), Spanish Cabrales, Danish Blue (sharp and salty), Italian Gorgonzola (tangy and piquant), American Maytag Blue (strong and salty), and English Stilton (piquant, but milder than most blues).

Wine Pairing: Extra Dry or Demisec Champagne/sparkling, late-harvest
Chenin Blanc, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon and Tokay, old vines
Grenache and Zinfandel, reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz/Syra,
Vintage Port, Sauterne* (the ultimate!!!) or dessert wine.

VII. Grating Cheeses: hard, with crumbly texture and ripened for various lengths of time. Hard to slice; best grated.

Examples: Italian Asiago (usually sharp), Parmigiano-Reggiano (sharp, nutty and often salty) and Pecorino Romano (usually sharp); and Swiss Sapsago (grassy and herbal).

Wine Pairing: Fino Sherry, Nebbiolo, reserve Sangiovese, Syrah, Zinfandel.

Ultimate Pairings:

Goat Cheese with Sancerre
Stilton with Port
Roquefort with Sauternes

Fromagerie Berthelemy

My Favorite Cheese Shop:

Fromagerie Barthélémy,  51 rue de Grenelle,  Paris 75007

Perhaps the most famous in all of Paris, this tiny shop boasts over 200 cheeses. Luckily it is within walking distance of where I usually stay and I never go by without peering in and taking a sniff!

The Cheese Course...Serving Tips:

Don't serve too many cheeses. Even one carefully chosen cheese paired with an excellent wine can constitute a pleasing cheese course. Put three or four cheeses of differing flavors, shapes and textures on a large cheese platter, set out an equal number of knives and let guests slice and savor. I suggest a soft Brie, such as the luxurious Brie de Meaux from France or better still, a Brillat-Savarin; an American Cheddar, preferably an unpasteurized white cheddar from Vermont,  a blue cheese like Blue de Bresse or Roquefort and something just for fun like a spicy, aged Gouda. Or hone in on a particular country like Spain and serve Manchego, Cabrales, La Serena, and Mahon . If you crave blue cheese, go all out with a platter of Maytag, Irish Cashel and Stilton, although this can be a bit overwhelming.  I have often served a platter of different goat cheeses, both domestic and imported after a Provencal menu.  Accompanied with fig jam, honey, pears and a baguette it is mana from heaven!

Always serve cheese at room temperature. Depending on the warmth of the room, it shouldn't take more than an hour. Leave cheese wrapped while its warming up.

Arrange wedges and logs far from one another so flavors remain distinct. Figure on a two-ounce serving portion of each cheese per person if the cheese platter is an appetizer or dessert; double that if cheese is the whole meal.

Tell your guests the name, origin and type of each cheese, and in which order it’s best to sample them. As in wine-tasting, progress from milder cheeses to stronger ones.

Pair foods that won't overshadow the delicious flavor and texture of the cheese. Some possibilities include:

Breads: Baguettes, Brioche, Walnut Bread

Fruits: Fuji or Gala Apples, Anjou or Bosc Pears, Grapes, Melon, Peaches, Strawberries

Dried Fruits: Cherries, Currants, Dates, Figs, Raisins, Apricots, Cranberries

Nuts: Walnuts, Pistachios, Almonds, Hazelnuts

Other: Fruit Chutneys, Olives, Honey, fig jam (particularly good with goat cheese!)

Cheese Etiquette

When serving cheese a la francaise, an individual serving is cut from each cheese being served and place on a diner's plate and eaten with a knife and fork.

The edibility of a cheeses rind is a matter of taste and common sense. The rind of stilton is obviously inedible, while eating the rinds of Reblochon, Brie or Camembert is a matter of personal preference. Its acceptable to trim them away.

It is considered bad manners to cut the "nose" off a wedge of Brie.  Long slices should be taken from alternate sides to maintain its shape.

Truckles such as Stilton need to have a "lid" cut off the top.  You can either use a cheese spoon to serve the cheese from the opening or cut down from the opening to serve small wedges.  Replace lid when storing the cheese.  Same can be done for Gouda or Edam cheese.

When to Eat Cheese

You can either serve cheese as a separate course at the end of the meal, instead of or before dessert, like the French; or as the Italians as a separate course before the meal.  In this case it is served with some form of salumi (cured pok products) and fruits or vegetables, olives, nuts, bread and wine. It is also served as an appetizer before an evening meal.

A wonderful alternative is to serve it as the meal for lunch together with a baguette and perhaps a slice of terrine or jambon de bayonne and a salad.  A glass of wine wouldn't hurt either!  This is by far my favorite way and one which I enjoy often, particularly when I'm by myself.

A blue cheese with ash in the middle

Buying and Storing Tips:

Try to buy from a specialty cheese or gourmet shop if one is available where you live.  The selection will be wider and fresher.  Supermarkets are not the best place to buy cheese. Taste before you buy whenever possible.

Never buy pre-sliced cheese.

Cheese, like wine, is seasonal.  Check with your cheesemonger to buy a particular cheese at its peak.

Buy cheese that has a natural rather than a plastic rind. Fresh-cut cheese will taste better than a plastic-wrapped wedge. Look for a cheese that seems fresh, with no mold or seeping liquid. Don’t buy cheese in a puffed-up package that looks as if its ready to burst. And never buy cheese that smells even slightly of ammonia.

To store cheese, wrap it in wax paper or parchment paper, (tin foil is okay also) then overwrap with plastic wrap. Never wrap cheese in plastic wrap alone, it makes cheese sweat.  Once you have unwrapped the cheese, discard wrapping and put cheese in new wrapping. Store in your refrigerators produce bin which has high humidity.  Cheeses that come in a box, such as Camembert, should be stored in the box.

The softer the cheese, the shorter the shelf life. Very soft cheese such as chevre should be used within a few days. Hard cheeses will keep for up to a month.

No cheese benefits from freezing, so buy cheese in small quantities and use it while its fresh.  I have had good luck freezing Stilton and Gruyere but not for long periods of time.

This is as much as I know about cheese (with a little help from some of my books); but there is tons of information out there in books or on the web.  I have three books which I strongly recommend on the subject and which have served me well. 

All images Getty

Friday, January 21, 2011

Natilla...Custard With Meringue and Ladyfingers

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This is what every Cuban child of my generation grew up eating for dessert and what I made for my American children when they were growing up.  The original natilla is very simple to make and is rather a common dessert just like custard is in this country.  I would say natilla is softer and this recipe is somewhere in consistency between American custard and creme anglaise.  As to flavor, the combination of lemon rind and cinnamon gives it an addictive taste that keeps you coming back for more, sometimes in the middle of the night!

The only problem you have when you make the classic natilla is what to do with all the leftover egg whites. You can either freeze them or make baked meringues.  I did this for awhile until I wisened up and decided to incorporate them into the dessert.  The ladyfingers were a natural addition and once the dessert  cools completely they become as soft as cake.

I usually make the chocolate variation which I encourage you to try and only requires the additional step of melting some chocolate on  the stove or microwave.  It is very rich and very, very good!

A new generation of grandbabies will definitely grow up on this if Lindaraxa has any say in the matter!


1 quart milk

1 piece of lime or lemon rind

1 cinnamon stick

Pinch of salt

8 egg yolks

1 1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup water

4 TB corn starch


8-10 ladyfingers (optional)

Meringue (optional)


Add salt, lemon rind and cinnamon stick to milk. Bring to a boil. Remove from the stove and let cool. Remove cinnamon and lemon peel.

Beat egg yolks with an electric mixer until they are fluffy. Continue beating and gradually add the cornstarch mixed with the water and the sugar until it is completely mixed. Gradually add milk to mixture until you have a smooth consistency.  Pass through a sieve into a pan and cook in low heat, stirring occasionally until it's thick and begins to bubble.  Add vanilla and stir. Pour into individual serving bowls or one big bowl. . Chill completely in refrigerator. Sprinkle cinnamon on the top just before serving.

This is where the traditional natilla stops and mine begins.

Submerge about 8-10 ladyfingers in the natilla.  They will come back to the top but don't worry.  You will be covering with meringue.

Make a meringue with the 8 leftover egg whites a dash of salt and about 3TB sugar per egg white.  With a big serving spoon drop in dollops over the custard.  Return to refrigerator and serve well chilled!

Chocolate Variation:  Melt 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate and add to egg yolks and sugar. Proceed as with rest of recipe..

Adapted from Nitza Villapol
Photos Lindaraxa

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Stylish Blogger Award

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I have just been honored with the Stylish Blogger Award from my friend Libby Wilkie at An Eye For Detail.  Great, now I have a good excuse for a glass of champagne!

I am not the sort who wins things easily, even when I make an extraordinary effort, so an award, any award, is a real thrill.  Thank you Libby!

The Stylish Blogger Award is given by bloggers to other bloggers in recognition of....well, I guess being stylish and having a stylish blog, what else!

These awards carry a price (with a c not a z!), better known as rules, and they are  as follows:


1. Thank and link back to the person who awarded you

2. Share 7 things about yourself

3. Award to 10 other bloggers (I thought it was 7!)

4. Contact those bloggers and tell them about the award

So, here are 7 random things about me:

1. I grew up in Havana, Cuba.

2. I hate to exercise but I'm a respectable bridge player

3. I'm a direct descendant of a French corsair

4. I went to school with Glenn Close...and Libby Wilkie

5.  Edith Piaf once sang to me in private

6.  I had my appendix out during my honeymoon and spent seven days in the hospital

7. I sleep with a Westie

And now I give the award to these stylish bloggers, not necessarily in any preferential order:

10. Braebourne Farm 

So here's to you, ladies and gentlemen...may this be one of many, many more!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Winter Entertaining...Sunday Brunch In the City

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About two weeks ago Heather Clawson who publishes the immensely popular blog Habitually Chic mentioned in her blog that one of her New Year's resolutions was to have more brunches.  That got me thinking...

One of the things I enjoyed the most when I was living in the city was meeting up with friends on Sunday to have brunch at Luke's or anywhere else where I could get Eggs Benedict and a Bloody Mary.  To me, Sundays were all about the New York Times, the crossword puzzle, brunch afterwards and a good long nap.   Sometimes I would forgo my idyllic afternoon and invite friends for a casual Sunday dinner.

If you have lived in New York, you know weekends are all about casual clothes and casual dining.  Try visiting a neighborhood restaurant during the weekend and you will see the same people you saw all dressed up during the week in a most casual yet stylish attire.  People who live and work in town look forward to relaxing on the weekend and what they want is to dress down, walk the dog and rest up for the week ahead.  Going out for Sunday brunch is a popular diversion for New Yorkers but if you want to get in at your favorite restaurant or neighborhood cafe you better get there early.  You will find most places jammed packed!

So what could be simpler and more appreciated than offering friends an alternative to a restaurant brunch by entertaining them informally in the comfort of your home? It beats hosting a cocktail party or sit-down dinner, and it's a lovely and casual way to catch up with friends and family members.  Just make sure you set a civilized noon!

Now if you live in relatively small quarters, set up a buffet style table and let everyone serve themselves.  Do make sure you have enough seating though for all your guests. Even if you are lucky enough to have a separate dining room, you can use this type of arrangement to make things casual and more enjoyable. This is what makes New York city parties so much fun..

Everything in this brunch menu can at least be started the night before. The strata and the french toast just need to bake in the morning.  The fruit parfaits, Bloody Mary mix, salmon and accompaniments can also be prepared the day before, placed in the fridge wrapped with foil,  and brought out just before the guests arrive.  If you want to add muffins and scones, this is something you can buy ready made.  There is such a wonderful selection to choose from if you live in a major city such as New York. 

Now just because this is an informal party doesn't mean that you can't take out the silver,  crystal or the nice china.  That is what makes it extra special, even if you serve a simple menu.  It's done in English country houses all the time so why shouldn't you?

So Heather, here's to your New Year's can cross it off the list!


Smoked Salmon
mini bagels, cream cheese, capers, lemon, chopped red onions

Coffee, Tea

 Make sure you check out the country brunch in My Kitchen By The Lake!

Photos:  (top)  Elegant Entertaining,  Henrietta Spencer Churchill
and Google

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Papaya Berry Yogurt Parfaits

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Is there a more elegant, healthier or simpler way to start your day?


Serves 6

3 containers (5.3 ounces each) plain nonfat Greek yogurt

5 tablespoons honey

1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest, plus 1 tablespoon juice

1 piece fresh ginger (about 2 inches)

1 papaya (1 pound), peeled, halved lengthwise, seeds discarded, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 package (6 ounces) fresh blackberries

1 package (6 ounces) fresh raspberries

1/4 cup chopped fresh mint, plus sprigs for garnish

1/2 cup granola


1.In a small bowl combine yogurt, 3 tablespoons honey, and zest; set aside.

2.Using the large holes of a box grater, grate the ginger (no need to peel) into a small bowl. Squeeze ginger through a fine-meshed sieve or strainer placed over a medium bowl to get a total of 1 tablespoon ginger juice. Discard pulp. To the bowl with the juice, add remaining 2 tablespoons honey and lemon juice; whisk to combine. Add papaya, blackberries, and raspberries and toss gently to coat.

3.To serve: Spoon half the fruit and juices among six 8-ounce tall glasses. Sprinkle chopped mint over the fruit. Top with half the yogurt mixture and half the granola. Layer with the remaining fruit, yogurt, and granola. Garnish with mint sprigs.


Source: Martha

Monday, January 17, 2011

Baked French Toast...An Easy Solution When Serving a Crowd!

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Hot and sweet, baked to a golden crisp, and dripping with syrup, you’ll find not a single thing  missing.  A great idea when serving a crowd!


1 (13- to 14-inch-long) loaf of soft-crust supermarket Italian bread

1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened

2 large eggs

1 2/3 cups whole milk

3 tablespoons sugar

Accompaniment: pure maple syrup


Cut 12 (1-inch-thick) diagonal slices from bread, reserving ends for another use.

Generously butter 1 side of each slice and arrange slices, buttered sides up, in 1 layer in a buttered 13- by 9- by 2-inch glass baking dish, squeezing them slightly to fit if necessary.

Whisk together eggs, milk, and 1/4 teaspoon salt until combined well, then pour evenly over bread. Chill, covered, until bread has absorbed all of custard, at least 1 hour and up to 1 day, depending on bread.

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Bring mixture to room temperature and sprinkle bread with sugar.

Bake, uncovered, in middle of oven until bread is puffed and top is golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve immediately.

Note: If you missed it, check out the recent recipe posted on the Williams Sonoma site for savory pancakes.

Source:  Epicurious

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Cotoletta A La Milanese...Veal Chops Milanese

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I had forgotten how good a breaded veal chop can be until I saw this picture.  We have become so used to having the thin veal scallopini now in fashion that you hardly ever see these on the menu anymore. When you compare the two, these are definitely juicier and tastier.  I urge you to revisit at the first opportunity!

Although hard to find in some areas these days, you should have no trouble buying them at a good supermarket.  A bit expensive but worth every penny and so easy to make!  All you need is a nice big salad and dinner is ready.

If you have the time, marinade them for an hour or two in garlic and lemon juice or Italian dressing such as Newman's Own.

4 servings


Freshly ground black pepper

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

4 (8-ounce) veal chops pounded to ½-inch thickness

1 cup plain fine breadcrumbs

7 tablespoons unsalted butter




Add a pinch of pepper to eggs and lightly beat to combine. Dip veal chops into beaten egg mixture, avoiding the bone and allowing excess egg to drip off. Dredge each chop in breadcrumbs and press between palms so that breadcrumbs adhere to meat.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. As soon as butter begins to brown, add veal chops; season lightly with salt. Cook until browned, 2 to 3 minutes per side for medium-rare. Remove from the skillet and drain on paper towels. Serve immediately, or keep warm until serving.

I like to squeeze fresh lemon juice once served.

Adapted from La Cucina Italiana

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Mostarda...La Mostarda di Agrumi

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Mostarda is a distinctive fruit conserve that mixes the intense spice of mustard with the sweet flavors of candied fruit.   Over the centuries the agrodolce flavor characteristic of mostarda has taken on countless variations. By the 19th century there were many cities with their own versions, and the varieties of mostarda made in Cremona became widely regarded as the most special because of the complexity of their ingredients.

The word mostarda is traced to the Latin word ardens, or ardente in Italian. Ardente means burning, and it refers to the spice of the white mustard flour that was once added to the unfermented grape must, or mustum, to make mustum ardens. In French, this spicy conserve was called moût ardent, which then became moutarde, and was translated into Italian as mostarda. While its name may come from French, mostarda is entirely an Italian specialty, and like most of the country’s recipes, there are several regional versions of this preserve.

In Lombardy, the mostarda of Mantova is prepared with sliced quince, apple or local pear, and in the nearby town of Viadana, a spicier version is made with passacrassana pears, a winter variety with dense flesh. Puréed quince and pears, mixed with candied orange and citron peel, characterize most mostarda from the Veneto region, except for that from Verona, which calls for vegetables. Grape must is still used in some recipes from Emilia-Romagna, where it is mixed with quince, pear and prune.

According to tradition, mostarda is served in the fall, paired with bollito misto, Italian boiled meats. Today, mostarda is not limited to a single season and complements a wide range of foods. For the mostarda of Cremona, each fruit has its own dish: fig mostarda is served with herbed cheese and salumi; clementine mostarda with roast meats and fresh cheeses; while tome cheese, prosciutto cotto and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese are all ideal pairs for mostarda with pumpkin. With pear mostarda, serve Parmigiano-Reggiano and Felino salame, and for melon, serve culatello and fresh cow’s milk cheeses. The mostarda of Mantova, a fundamental ingredient in the local tortelli, is great with boiled white meat and medium-aged cheeses.

Mostarda is difficult to find in this country but easy enough to make at home if you are looking for authentic flavors that are bright and pure. Serve a small bowl of this citrus-flavored recipe alongside fresh cheeses, or pair it with roasted meats. The preserve's sweet and sour flavors also play well with fish and shellfish.

I personally love pear mostarda paired with Roquefort or Stilton and I will try to find a good recipe to post in the future.

If you like the idea but don't want to go through the (slight) trouble of making it, you can buy Mostarda di Cremona and Mostarda di Milano through, although I can guarantee it just won't be the same!

La Mostarda Di Agrumi

Makes 3 cups


4 navel oranges

3 lemons

1 1/2 cups (18 ounces) acacia honey

1 1/4 cups sugar

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 fresh rosemary sprigs

2 tablespoons dry mustard

2 tablespoons dry white wine


Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Cut off a 1/2-inch slice from top and bottom of each orange to expose fruit, then score orange peel from top to bottom at 1/4-inch intervals, cutting through pith, with a sharp knife. Pull off each strip of peel, including pith, with your fingers. (Reserve fruit for another use.) Repeat with lemons. Cut peels in half widthwise.

Fill a 2- to 3-quart heavy saucepan with 4 cups water; bring water to boil. Add citrus peels, return water to boil and cook for 1 minute. Drain peels and run under cold water to cool. Pat dry with paper towel.

Combine honey and 1/2 cup cold water in a large saucepan; bring mixture to boil over medium-high heat. Add peels, reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for 25 minutes. Remove mixture from heat and let rest for 10 minutes. Return mixture to simmer and cook until peels are semi-translucent and honey syrup is reduced to about 1/2 cup, about 25 minutes more.

Set a fine-mesh sieve over a large bowl; drain peels, reserving honey syrup. Transfer peels to prepared baking sheet and cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, combine sugar, 1 cup cold water and lemon juice; bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is clear and slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add rosemary sprigs; let syrup cool for 10 minutes, then remove and discard sprigs. Whisk in reserved honey syrup.

In a small saucepan, whisk together mustard and wine. Set over medium-high heat and cook, whisking constantly, until mixture is thick and smooth, about 3 minutes. Add mustard mixture to syrup mixture and whisk well to combine.

Transfer peels to a 4-cup heatproof glass jar with a lid. Pour syrup over peels (discard any remaining syrup), seal jar and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or up to 10 days

Information recipe and photo from La Cucina Italiana

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Pecorino With Honey & Walnuts

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I usually don't like to try recipes from people who are not dedicated cooks but in this case an exception was made.

Last month while looking for Christmas decorating ideas in one of my many Carolyne Roehm books,  I came across this picture.  Now, she may be my idol as to table settings and gift wrapping but I would not bet the bank she's a good cook.  Not by the looks of her!  She's too skinny for one and secondly she just doesn't look like the type.  That doesn't mean she doesn't have good recipes that she has probably collected from visiting friends who have fabulous chefs.  So what could go wrong with trying this combination?  After all, I had all the ingredients in my pantry including a huge Pecorino Romano I had recently purchased at Costco!

This is sensational,  particularly after dinner in lieu of dessert;  although, of course, you could serve it as an hors d'oeuvre any time of the year.


½ cup honey
15 walnut halves
1 pound young pecorino toscano

Preheat oven to 450°.


Mix honey and walnuts in small bowl. Slice pecorino ½" thick and slightly overlap in baking dish. Bake 6 minutes until slightly runny. Pour honey and walnut mixture over cheese. Serve with crusty bread.

Recipe Carolyne Roehm

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

What is Adobo?

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Before things get really out of hand and some chefs and professional cooks take this word into the stratosphere, let's get this straight.  Adobo is a spanish word that means marinade, dry or wet, and  is used typically in Spanish and Latin American cuisine.  It usually refers to the condiments in which meats such as pork, chicken, lamb turkey or fish are marinaded before they are cooked.

A typical adobo consists of garlic, onions, olive oil, lemon or lime and herbs or spices. Sometimes the adobo is discarded before cooking, other times it is added to the pan.  It can be sauce like if it has wet ingredients such as oil or orange juice or it can be dry if it is just spices and herbs.  It is not a sauce to be enjoyed as part of a dish although the term has now taken that meaning, particularly as it pertains to Mexican and southwestern food, courtesy of creative menu writers and cookbook authors.

Goya makes prepared adobos, both dry and wet which can be found in your supermarket

Goya Adobo All Purpose Seasoning, 8 Ounces

In Filipino cuisine, adobo refers to a common cooking process indigenous to the Philippines. When the Spanish invaded the Philippines in the late 16th century they found an indigenous cooking process that involved stewing with vinegar. They referred to this method as "adobo". Over time, dishes prepared in this manner came to be known by this name as well, the most famous being chicken or pork stewed in vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, bay leaves and pepper.

In Mexican cuisine it is a marinade or paste made with chillies, vinegar and spices to flavor meats.

Just for the record....

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Sausage, Bean And Spinach Dip

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It's that time of the year season (yawn).   Me, I just like the food and being able to go to the movies with my married non football watching girlfriends; and they are delighted to finally catch the latest "chick flick" with someone who will truly appreciate it.  As long as they are allowed to hang out with their buddies and there's plenty of food and beer in the fridge, husbands are in guy heaven...  It's a terrific situation for all involved.  Bring it on!

In order to qualify for football season fare, the recipe must be spicy, rich, hot, burp inducing and loaded with  calories.  Oh, and it has to go with chips and beer...that's all.

This is a good one...fits all of the requirements!

Yield: Makes about 6 cups


1 sweet onion, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 (1-lb.) package hot ground pork sausage

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 (8-oz.) package cream cheese, softened

1 (6-oz.) package fresh baby spinach, coarsely chopped

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 (15-oz.) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 cup (2 oz.) shredded Parmesan cheese

Serve with: Corn chip scoops, red bell pepper strips, pretzel rods


1. Preheat oven to 375°. Cook diced onion and next 2 ingredients in a large skillet over medium-high heat, stirring often, 8 to 10 minutes or until meat crumbles and is no longer pink. Drain. Stir in garlic and thyme; cook 1 minute. Stir in wine; cook 2 minutes or until liquid has almost completely evaporated.

2. Add cream cheese, and cook, stirring constantly, 2 minutes or until cream cheese is melted. Stir in spinach and salt, and cook, stirring constantly, 2 minutes or until spinach is wilted. Gently stir in beans. Pour mixture into a 2-qt. baking dish; sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

3. Bake at 375° for 18 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with corn chip scoops, bell pepper strips, and pretzel rods.

Brent Grainger, Birmingham, Alabama, Southern Living

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Cuban Style Chicken Fricassee...Fricase de Pollo

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You can take the girl out of the country but you cant take the country out of the girl...

Just about once a month, I have to have my dosage of good homemade Cuban food.  Although it's only been a week since I had the mandatory black beans for Christmas (and threw a bucketful of water out the back door for good luck on New Year's Eve), tonight was the night to go native with one of the quintessential of Cuban dishes.  I got the inspiration at the last minute and since it really only takes a few staples that I always keep in my pantry, dinner was done in no time.

This fricassee is different from the ones you have probably had in the past.  It is reminiscent of the bittersweet flavors found in the cooking of Andalucia and is typical of the Moorish influence in Spanish cuisine. 

Now, some people add pimento stuffed olives and others add petit pois or small green peas.  Although the olives are more traditional, I prefer the latter and it's the way it was always served in my house; but either one will be a good choice. Just don't add both.  And don't skip the potatoes, it's what gives the wonderful consistency to the sauce!

This is a terrific and fairly quick comfort food style meal and most appropriate for a family Sunday lunch or dinner. If I'm serving it for guests, I sometimes add the slivered almonds (slightly toasted) at the last minute for a nice presentation.  It's a great dish for a dinner or lunch party, Cuban or not.

If you are not Cuban you owe it to yourself to try this at least once in your life.  You will be converted!

Serves 4-6


3 TB olive oil

1 TB butter

4 lbs chicken fryer cut in 8 pieces (or chicken thighs)

6 garlic cloves, mashed cut up

1/2 cup sour orange juice (or mix half-half lime and orange)*

1 lg onion chopped

1/2 lg bell pepper chopped

1 bay leaf

3/4  small can tomato paste

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 small can Petit Pois (English Peas)
   OR1/4 cup sliced pimiento filled olives

1/2 cup raisins

1 cup dry white wine

1 1/2 cups of water

1 lb potatoes, peeled and quartered

Slivered almonds (optional)


Marinade chicken pieces in garlic cloves, citrus juice, onion and bell pepper for at least one hour. Heat oil and butter in a large skillet and brown chicken (do not overbrown). Add garlic, onion, pepper and citrus juice from the marinade. Add wine and boil down for about a minute or two.  Add tomato paste,salt & pepper. Add water to cover the chicken halfway. Add the potato pieces  cover and cook for about 30 minutes or until the potatoes are done.  If the sauce starts to get too thick just add some more water (half a cup at a time). Add the raisins and cook another 5 minutes.  Add the can of small peas (or the olives) just before serving.

Wonderful over fluffy white rice.

*plain orange juice will do just as well

Photos:  Lindaraxa

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Simple Dinners...Minestrone Di Romagna

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Right about this time of the year I dig deep into my recipe box and pull out my recipe for Minestrone.  I also spend a good ten minutes searching inside my freezer for that old rind of Parmesan cheese I put away in the summer.  The soup really doesn' t need a recipe, I know well what goes into it, but at my age, I just don't trust myself to remember all the extra goodies that I have added in the past to make it my own.

There is no right or wrong minestrone...there is just good minestrone.  In the north of Italy you will find rice in your soup, in the south, beans, or pasta and tomatoes.  The only constants are staples like carrots, celery, onions and potatoes.  At the end what you want is a dense and mellow soup that recalls no vegetable in particular, but all of them at once.  Don't leave out the potato, it gives it depth and helps to thicken the soup to its right consistency.

I prefer to use beef broth rather than chicken.  I also encourage you to make your own broth out of flank or another inexpensive cut of beef.  It makes a tremendous difference and it doesn't take long.  I usually keep some in the freezer for making soups in the winter.

The things that will make this soup especial and not just good are:

Homemade beef stock
San Marzano tomatoes
Old rind of good Parmigiano Reggiano

This soup is better the next day so plan ahead. It's also a great way to clean your refrigerator after the holidays!  It will keep in your refrigerator for 1 week.  Although I have never done it, it should freeze well.

Serves 6


1/2 cup olive oil

3 Tbs butter

1 cup thinly sliced yellow onion

1 cup diced carrots

1 cup diced celery

2 cups peeled, diced potatoes

1 1/2 cups canned cannellini beans.**

2 cups diced zucchini (about 2 medium zucchini)

1 cup diced green beans

3 cups shredded cabbage, preferable Savoy cabbage

6 cups homemade meat broth or 2 cups canned beef broth mixed with 4 cups of water

The crust of a 2 to 4 inch long piece of Parmesan cheese scraped clean (optional, but well worth it!)

2/3 cup canned  San Marzano Italian tomatoes with their juice

1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Handful of chopped fresh chopped basil leaves for garnish.(optional, best in summer)


Choose a stockpot large enough for all ingredients. Put in oil, butter and the sliced onion and cook over medium-low heat until the onion wilts and is pale gold in color, but not browned. Add the diced carrots and cook for 2 to 3 minutes , stirring once or twice. Repeat this procedure in sequence with the celery, potatoes,  zucchini, and green beans, cooking each one a few minutes and stirring. Then add the shredded cabbage and cook for about 6 minutes giving pot the occasional stir.

Add the broth, the cheese crust, the tomatoes and their juice and a little bit of salt. (Careful with salt if using canned broth). Cover and cook at a very slow boil for at least 3 hours. If necessary, you can stop the cooking at any time and resume later. Minestrone must never be thin and watery, so cook until it is soupy thick.  

Fifteen minutes before the soup is done, add the canned or cooked dry beans. Just before turning off the heat, remove the cheese crust, swirl in the grated cheese, then taste and correct  for salt.
*I have added spinach at the end.

variation: sautéed 5-6 slices of bacon cut in 1 inch slices and 1 ham hock in olive oil.  Add 1 tb. Thyme fresh. Substitute the beef broth with 5 cups of water. Omit green beans. Omit cabbage and add Fresh baby spinach at the end.Shredded Parmesan when serving. 10/21/20 Excellent! 

***Goya, Cento and Progresso carry them

Recipe adapted from Marcella Hazan

Monday, January 3, 2011

20 Easy Tips For Slimming Down And Eating Well

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Relax, this blog is not about to turn itself into a boring diet blog.  I just want to share some things that have helped me when I've tried to put on the brakes after a month long binge with food.   It also seems to be what is on everybody's mind this week so let's talk about it.

If you are feeling like I am, right this minute on January 2nd, you are probably nauseated at the thought of  sauces, cookies and fancy hors d'oeuvres.  If I keep on eating like this, I will be keeping company with the hippos at the Atlanta Zoo by next spring.  So cutting back is a must, not only for the figure but for your health as well.  That doesn't mean you have to eat bad stuff.  People think that if a recipe is good, it has to be fattening.  Think again...

In my past life I used to travel all over the world and stay at the best hotels and eat wherever I pleased.  Except for my trips to Brazil, I always came back a couple of pounds lighter.  Why Brazil? their food is awfully good but quite salty and this lady tends to accumulate water like mad.  All this got me thinking about the reasons for this surprising weight loss and I came to the conclusion that preservatives and bad meal timing were the main culprits in making me gain weight.  Now I know what you are going to say... it was all the walking you did! People in Europe and Asia walk more than we do, that is a fact; but I lived in New York City at the time and walking is part of everyday life there. So that wasn't really the difference.

In the Far East dessert is non existent.  It's just not part of the equation.  It's mango this or that for dessert, and very few other choices, none of them worth adding extra calories for.   In Europe you eat sweets differently.  Ice cream and cakes and cookies are eaten in the middle of the day.  Try to get an ice cream or a gelato after 6 in Paris, Venice or Rome and you are out of luck.  After 6:00 p.m. you'd be hard pressed to find a fresh tart or cookie for sale or a patisserie or boulangerie open for business . Next time you are abroad, check the menu at any restaurant and tell me if you see cake or pie for dessert in the evening.   Dessert is usually chocolate or cooked fruit of some sort. Chocolate tarts are almost flourless and souffles are not as fattening as a big slice of cake or pie.  Cheese of course, helps the digestion.  In England, scones, sandwiches and cookies are for tea and that happens before 6 o'clock.  Get the picture?

Rice and beans are usually served at lunch in Spain and Latin American, except for Christmas or New Year's Eve.  Fried foods are eaten occasionally and usually for lunch. People don't snack in the middle of the day in any of these countries...they have planned meals, including tea.  They drink wine mostly, and little hard liquor.  Soda's are to be enjoyed occasionally, if at all.  Water is what you drink when you are thirsty.  And portions, yes, PORTIONS are half or more of what they are here in the States.  They eat nothing frozen  just what is in season.  But they eat well, and you hardly ever hear anyone going en regime. 

So throughout the years I have devised a plan for myself that seems to work when I want it to work.

When I want to lose weight, or at least stop that scale, here's what I  (try to) do.

  1. Fruit and coffee in the morning and lots of water until noon.
  2. No heavy carb meals (risottos beans,  pasta ) after 6 p. m.
  3. No hard liquor, red wine on occasion
  4. At least 8 glasses of water a day.  Keep a bottle of room temperature water by your side and sip away as you work or watch tv.  I even take it in the car with me.
  5. No desserts, bread, potatoes or pasta at least for a week.  Afterwards, occasionally and preferably for lunch.  Bye bye cookies!
  6. Have more Asian type meals for dinner
  7. Eat Beef only 3 times a week
  8. Eat a big salad at least once a day
  9. Accentuate the vinegar in salad dressings
  10. Drink Cuban coffee or espresso after lunch to raise metabolism in the afternoon
  11. Watch those fat grams and try to keep to less than 30/day.  Reduce butter! cook with olive oil
  12. Substitute whole grain  for regular pastas and  especially bread
  13. Read ingredients and watch out for preservatives
  14. Reduce portions.  Eat half of what you normally eat or use a dessert instead of a dinner plate
  15. Take a walk at least once a day!
  16. Have dinner before 8:00 p.m
  17. Plan your meals ahead so you are not tempted later!
  18. NO diet drinks! This was the only advice my oncologist gave me after chemo (which believe it or not makes you gain weight!) to lose the 15 lbs. I gained (I didn't) Your body cannot differentiate between real and fake sugar and when you consume diet drinks it wants more because it is not getting the real thing.
  19. No snacks.  Eat your 3 meals plus afternoon tea if you must.
  20. Think THIN! 
If you check the main courses in the Master Recipe List, I guarantee you can eat 90% of them, as long as you eat in moderation and have a light lunch and breakfast that day.

Now, I am not a doctor or a dietitian, just a lifelong sufferer of weight gain when I let myself go for a few months.  These are the things that have served me well.  I no longer go on diets or even tell myself I am on one.  I just pay attention to what I put in my mouth and somehow, after a week or two the extra pounds begin to come off and my mind readjusts itself to the new regime. 

I'd love to hear what works for you!

Artist: Fernando Botero
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