Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Day...Champagne Risotto

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Chances are that if you are spending New Year's Eve at home, alone or with company, there will be some leftover Champagne come tomorrow morning. Hopefully, it will be in the refrigerator, uncorked, the best way to keep champagne that has been opened the night before. Even if it's not cold, it should still be alright for cooking a day or two after uncorking. 

 I am not one for starting the day with Mimosas, particularly after drinking Champagne the night before.  I would much rather save the leftover bubbly for a chicken in champagne sauce or a risotto. Anything but throw a drop away.

The recipe below can be adapted in many ways and is perfect for lunch or dinner.  You can substitute  green peas or shiitake mushrooms for the asparagus while keeping the prosciutto;  or you can eliminate the latter altogether and just add champagne and peas, asparagus or mushrooms.  It's up to you, what you have in the food closet and how bad the hangover.

For 2 Servings


  • 4 thin slices prosciutto
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 3 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 12 asparagus spears, cut diagonally into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup Arborio rice
  • 3/4 cup Champagne
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken stock to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Blanch the asparagus in the chicken stock for 2 minutes. Remove the asparagus with a slotted spoon. Set the asparagus aside and keep the chicken stock at a low simmer.

Slice the prosciutto in strips

In another medium saucepan, melt 1 TB olive oil and saute the prosciutto until crisp.  Remove to the side, wipe the pan with a paper towel.

Add 1 tablespoon of the butter. Add the shallot and cook until tender, about 3 minutes.
 Add the Arborio rice and stir to coat in the butter. Continue toasting the rice, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes more.

Add the Champagne and simmer until the liquid has almost evaporated, about 3 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of the simmering broth and stir until almost completely absorbed, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking the rice, adding the broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and allowing each addition of broth to absorb before adding the next, until the rice is tender but still firm to the bite and the mixture is creamy, about 20 minutes total. Remove from the heat.

Gently stir in the asparagus, remaining butter, Parmesan, salt, and pepper. Spoon the risotto into serving dishes and garnish with the crisp prosciutto over the top of the risotto. Serve immediately.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Best Laid Plans of Mice And Men...Or The View From My Bed

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One of the most famous phrases in literature, as well as the title of this post,  comes from Robert Burns' poem To a Mouse, 1786. It tells of how he, while ploughing a field, upturned a mouse's nest.

The resulting poem is an apology to the mouse:
But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane [you aren't alone]
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft a-gley, [often go awry]
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promised joy.
The poem is of course the source for the title of John Steinbeck's 1937 novel - Of Mice and Men.

You may wonder why at this festive time of the year I may be thinking about this famous line.  The answer is simple...I am sick as a dog, right in the middle of the holidays, and all my carefully laid plans have gone the way of the ashtray.   Luckily I was able to make it through my birthday  but soon thereafter the clear symptoms of a bad flu came on like gangbusters.  This meant my party with the neighbors and Christmas Eve with the grandchildren had to be cancelled.  At the rate I am going New Years Eve is up in the air.  Which got me thinking....

What is a hostess to do if she comes down with the flu before a party? 

In my case, the decision was rather easy.  I have often attended and hosted parties at the tail end of a cold, particularly if I had outside help.  The problem of hosting a dinner party on your own is that your little fingers are touching everything you are preparing to serve and you certainly do not want to be responsible for contaminating your guests.   If you are sneezing and coughing  guess what, all your germs are airborne!

I was lucky that this year's pre Christmas Eve party was a small one with intimate friends.  On the morning of the party a phone call was made, the situation explained,  and both parties decided postponing for a day or two was the right thing to do.  Yesterday when I saw that my condition would not improve any time soon, the uncooked ducks were sent out to my guests, together with some of the hors d'oeuvres, wine and Christmas cookies.  I couldn't think of anything else to make up for the disappointment of having to cancel at the last minute.  I felt so bad, in a moment of delusion, I even thought of sending along some of the family silver.

Incidentally, had I contracted outside help,  I would have also honored my commitment, tip included.

This is the first time I have ever had to cancel a dinner party but, under the circumstances, I think I did the right thing.  Has this ever happened to you? If so, what did you do? I wonder what Elsa Maxwell would have done.  She would have probably gone on with the whole thing and received her guests in her boudoir wearing a fancy peignoir, a hilarious thought given her looks.  Which leads me to another observation....

When I am sick and have to spend inordinate amounts of time in bed, I usually have two books going, a crossword puzzle and a movie to watch in between.  I don't know about you,  but nothing keeps my attention for long when I'm ill and cranky.  This time around I read a great book and a fun book,  both of which I highly recommend.  The great book is Former People,the Final Days Of the Russian Aristocracy a real tour de force, well written and well  researched;  and the fun book is Inventing Elsa Maxwell, How an Irrepressible Nobody Conquered High Society, Hollywood and The Press.

Trust me,only a couple of page turners like these will keep your mind from thinking how bad you are feeling.  The movie was Hemingway and Gellhorn with Nicole Kidman and a yummy Clive Owen, an HBO movie about the writer's relationship and marriage to correspondent Martha Gellhorn, the only woman to ever ask him for a divorce.  Highly entertaining and the perfect kind of movie  for when you are sick in bed.  A no brainer.  Now if only I could find another one like it......

Needless to say, the chances of getting a recipe from me before next year are slim, unless you are thinking of chicken soup and I just might do that.

So that's the view from my bed on Thursday, December 27, 2012, Day 7 of the flu.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Bittersweet Christmas Eve...The 2012 Menu

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This year Christmas will be a low key affair at Lindaraxa's. Madame Mere, the glue that binds this family together, won't be coming up for the holidays as travelling during Christmas has become too much for her. Getting on a plane these days is a major production and older people simply get overwhelmed.  Sh*t, I get overwhelmed and I used to travel quite a lot in my day.

I will be spending Christmas Eve at my son's house and staying overnight so I can share in my grandchildren's joy when they come down in the morning and see all the presents under the tree. I don't want to miss a thing, especially this year.  After all, kids are so precocious these days I wonder how long before they find out who the real Santa is. I will feel extremely lucky if we get a couple of years under our belt.

Yes, I will miss having the big dinner for the family, that I can't deny; but I look forward to the new era when I, as a grandmother, get to go over to my children's home to be entertained. We'll see how long that lasts,...perhaps as long as Santa.  Besides, after the recent events I would travel til the ends of the earth to spend this special evening with them.  It's all about the children this year and that's the way it should be. 

On the other hand, I would not miss a Christmas Eve dinner for the world and I will be having it tomorrow for close friends, my daughter and the dogs.  The invitation has gone out for Christmas Sunday Dinner and it will be very low key, although a little champagne never hurts.

Since it's a small group I am going to indulge in duck, something I usually save for New Year's Eve.  What is non negotiable, ever, is the chestnut soup, a tradition now for many years and a favorite of my brother's.  (If you are reading this, I am saving some chestnuts for when I see you next week!).

Have a Merry Christmas, don't sweat the small stuff, and give the little ones two extra hugs.  My prayers and thoughts are with the families of the children and teachers of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

Christmas Eve Dinner 2012

Cocktail Cheese Biscuits
Christmas Bar Nuts
 Cream of Chestnut Soup
 Roast Duck A l'Orange
Wild Rice with Cranberries and Toasted Pecans
Petit Pois and Roasted Small Onions
Ginger Cake With Orange Sabayon
Spanish Turrones

Photo via Habitually Chic

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Le Grand Vin For a Grand Birthday!

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Decisions, decisions, decisions. I hate making decisions but last night I made a decision  I wish I could make everyday of my life. .. drinking a 1982 Chateau Lafite Rothschild or a 1982 Chateau Latour!

When I get older losing my hair,
Many years from now,
Will you still be sending me a valentine
Birthday greetings bottle of wine?*

 This all came about with the arrival of my 65th birthday which I have been celebrating now for at least a week.  It has been the best birthday ever.  Social security, a small pension and Medicare.  Who could ask for anything more, right? Wrong. A gift from a dear friend who knows my love for Bordeaux. That is the stuff of dreams. I know to most of you this is all silliness, but to those of us who have been drinking and collecting wines receiving a couple of bottles of each of these wines, particularly from a year classified by some as the vintage of the century, is the thrill of a lifetime.  Yes, dear readers, to those in the know this is a trip to Paris, or a new mink coat! A night at the Ritz or a diamond necklace! Winning the lottery or getting "work" done on your face! You name it, whatever makes you tick multiplied by one hundred.

So, the process started. Which one was to be the lucky one?!  Which one would Winston choose?

The dedication is from Churchill to my uncle on his visit to Havana in 1946, a year before I was born.

For a week I looked into every review and tasting note I could find, from Robert Parker aka The Wine Advocate, to Dr. Vino who tweeted Either one! when asked to help in the choice.  From my own experience I have always found Lafite "needed more time" in the bottle.  Big wines like this are made to last 50 years plus, particularly from great vintages like '82, '90, and '95.    That is part of what makes them great wines.  To open a great Bordeaux before its time is a crime and a disappointment of sorts. Latour and Margaux are much more accessible and I have never been "early" opening either one.  So from past experience, a decision was made. Find out after the break...

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Vodka Christmas Cake

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Once again this year, I’ve had requests for my Vodka Christmas Cake recipe so here goes. Please keep in your files as I am beginning to get tired of typing this up every year.  (Made mine this morning.)


1 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 cup water
1 tsp. salt
1 cup brown sugar
lemon juice
4 large eggs
1 bottle Vodka,
2 cups dried fruit


Sample a cup of Vodka to check quality. Take a large bowl, check the Vodka again to be sure it is of the highest quality then Repeat. Turn on the electric mixer. Beat one cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl. Add 1 teaspoon of sugar. Beat again. At this point, it is best to make sure the Vodka is still OK. Try another cup just in case. Turn off the mixerer thingy. Break 2 eegs and add to the bowl and chuck in the cup of dried fruit. Pick the fruit up off the floor, wash it and put it in the bowl,  a piece at a time trying to count it. Mix on the turner. If the fried druit getas stuck in the beaterers, just pry it loose with a drewscriver. Sample the Vodka to test for tonsisticity. Next, sift 2 cups of salt, or something. Check the Vodka. Now shit shift the lemon juice and strain your nuts. Add one table. Add a spoon of sugar, or somefink. Whatever you can find. Greash the oven. Turn the cake tin 360 degrees and try not to fall over. Don't forget to beat off the turner. Finally, throw the bowl through the window. Finish the Vodka and wipe the counter with the cat.

My neighbor and dear friend, Karin, sent me this recipe knowing that I needed a good laugh this weekend.  I am sharing it with you because I know WE ALL need a good laugh this weekend.

Image: Getty

Monday, December 10, 2012

Cocktail Spiced Pecans

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This is an adaptation of the most famous spiced nuts in all of New York.  Served at the Union Square Cafe these babies fly off as fast as they are laid on the bar.

Because I wanted to ship some of my treasured pecans to a dearest friend, I have adapted the recipe to some extent.  I coated the nuts first in the butter and then added the spices before roasting at 325 degrees for 15 minutes.  Otherwise the pecans would have arrived covered in coagulated butter.  Those I will be serving for cocktails at home will get the original procedure.  You will love them!

Union Square Cafe's Bar Nuts


  • 2 1/4 cups (18-ounces) assorted unsalted nuts, including peeled peanuts, cashews, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans and whole unpeeled almonds
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Maldon or other sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Toss the nuts in a large bowl to combine and spread them out on a baking sheet. Toast in the oven until light golden brown, about 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the rosemary, cayenne, sugar, salt and melted butter.

Thoroughly toss the toasted nuts in the spiced butter and serve warm. And once you eat these, you will never want to stop.

 Another recipe...what a dilemma!

Photo #1, 3 Lindaraxa
Photo #2 Food Network

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Christmas Baking - Cocktail Cheese Biscuits

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Lindaraxa's Christmas kitchen was hopping today and it was the perfect day for it...rainy and yucky to do anything but stay inside and vegetate.  I chose instead to start getting some of my presents ready, particularly the ones that are going out of town.

I baked half of the cocktail cheese biscuits and one batch of the Peppermint Bark Brownies as I am still experimenting with the latter.  I have so many to make I have decided to take a short cut this year and make the recipe I will be posting in the country blog.  The roasted pecans and the gingerbread men are on the docket for tomorrow.  I just might make my special mustard this weekend too but that one stays at home with maybe a tad for a very special friend.  It can be a particularly expensive proposition if you make it with the right ingredients!

I got different size Christmas tin boxes,  already half price, at Hobby Lobby.

Cocktail Cheese Biscuits

1 stick of butter, cut into pieces
2 cups grated extra sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup of flour ( I use King Arthur's)
1 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp salt
1 tsp. cayenne (red) pepper or paprika

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

In the mixer with paddle attachment combine butter and cheese.  Add the mustard powder, salt and red pepper to the cup of flour.  Add the flour mix to the butter/cheese. Mix until it comes to a ball. Remove and shape into a log about an inch and a half in diameter.  If you are going to bake right away, put the dough in the freezer for about 10 minutes to harden so it will be easier to slice.  Slice in 1/4 inch thick slices, lay them in a baking pan slightly apart and bake for about 17 minutes.  Remove to a wire rack to cool.  Enjoy!

They will darken and crisp up when they cool.

Note.  Use really good cheese and grate it yourself.  Do not use the ready grated variety! Red pepper is the way to go.

This recipe has been adapted from 300 Years of Carolina Cooking

You might also want to try Cocktail Pecan Cheese Wafers in the lake blog

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Chocolate Mint Squares

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Right around this time during the holidays  I start thinking about gifts for those friends and acquaintances who have been particularly nice to me or my family during the year. Just like social invitations, kindnesses and favors should be acknowledged or reciprocated in one way or another and what better time to do it than Christmastime. Whether you send a gift or a personal handwritten card, the idea is to say thank you to a very special person in a very special way.

This year, unlike others, I have my share of people who have been most generous and kind with their friendship or with their time. There is no way I can repay what each has done for me, monetarily or otherwise, but there is something I know all of them will enjoy and that is a batch of homemade cookies! Let's face it, home made anything is the new luxury for people who do not cook and that is about 90% of the population these days.  If you want to put it in the context of food, home made goodies may just be the new caviar!

This weekend is the big bake off and both my daughter and I will be busy baking and packing. A couple of our friends are out of town so boxes will have to be carefully packed to ensure the cookies arrive in one piece. We have learned from experience that some cookies travel better than others so selecting the right recipe is important. Gingerbread men are always the most popular but, unfortunately, they have been known to arrive with their heads or legs cut off and will have to stay local. On the other hand, bars and clusters make it alright and will definitely be included in the final selection. So does my lemon pound cake and cocktail cheese biscuits.

This recipe from King Arthur has made the finals and is perfect for packing and mailing.    It combines mint and chocolate in a dense, rich bar, made festive by a layer of white icing offset by a final drizzle of dark, bitter chocolate. What more could you ask for?

So,  if you are looking for something special to give to a  friend or to the person who has everything in your Christmas list homemade cookies may be your best bet! 

Chocolate Mint Squares

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup (1 stick, 4 ounces) butter or margarine
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup (2 1/8 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/2 cup (2 ounces) chopped walnuts or chopped pecans, optional
1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract or peppermint oil*

2 cups (8 ounces) confectioners' sugar
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) melted butter
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract or peppermint oil*
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) milk

1 ounce unsweetened chocolate
1 tablespoon butter or margarine

1/4 cup crushed peppermint candies or candy canes
*Peppermint oils or extracts may vary in strength; add them judiciously, tasting as you go.


Dough: In a double boiler, or in a microwave, melt together the chocolate and butter or margarine. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, beat together the sugar, salt and eggs. Add the chocolate mixture, stirring to combine, then the flour, nuts and peppermint, mixing till well-blended.

Pour the batter into a lightly greased 9 x 9-inch pan. Bake the squares in a preheated 350°F oven for 25 minutes. Remove them from the oven, and cool to room temperature.

Frosting: In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, melted butter or margarine, peppermint and milk. Spread the frosting over the cooled squares in a thin layer.

Glaze: In a double boiler, or in a microwave, melt together the chocolate and butter or margarine. Drizzle this over the frosted squares, and sprinkle with the crushed peppermint candy. Refrigerate the squares till they're well-chilled. To serve, cut into 1 1/2-inch squares.

Yield: About 36 small squares.

Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour 

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Morning After...Leftover Recipes!

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So you have worked like a beaver, eaten like a pig and are now sick as a dog.  Yep, that about sums it up for most of us.  What took me eight hours to prepare and one to consume  kept me up most of the night.  I could feel my poor stomach rumbling and working overtime to get the stuff down the pike.  It is now 2:30 the afternoon after, I am still in my nightgown and if someone mentions the word stuffing, I will snap.  Food is the last thing on my mind but I know at some point I will be hungry again.

This morning when I opened the refrigerator there were all these nicely stalked Glad containers with the leftover loot.  My daughter must have put them together last night while I was catatonic upstairs.  If I am brave, perhaps I will have a bit of everything for dinner tonight except for the stuffing and the pie.  Those two are the real killers for me.  By tomorrow, though, most of us will still have an abundance of turkey, particularly from the parts no one likes.   Sandwiches can only go so far.

Here are five recipes from my turkey leftover repertoire and one for the stuffing.  You know what to do with the pies.

Photo: Ditte Isaber O Magazine

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Etiquette...You All Behave!

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Something worth remembering every year.  Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

It's that time of the year again...The Family Dinner From Hell.

This is the time when family grudges are aired in anticipation of forgiveness and peace by the time the Christmas holidays come around.

Here are a few tips for hostesses, family members and guests to make the holiday a pleasant one for all involved:


Dress appropriately, watch your language, arrive on time and keep your elbows off the table!

Try a little of everything and praise what is laid on your plate even if its burned or raw.  Thank your lucky stars you are having a warm meal that someone else cooked for you!

Don't get mesmerized by the football game.  Socialize, talk to others outside your group or family and help your hostess by offering to fix drinks or pass the appetizers.  She will be most grateful.

Talk to the old people. They appreciate every nice gesture we throw their way.

Turn your damn i-phone off and, by all means, don't even consider bringing it to the table!  Texting is NOT an alternative.  Make this sacrifice for world peace...

Stay out of the kitchen. Your hostess is hassled enough without you going in and bombarding her with stories of your last trip to Paris with your new boyfriend.

Don't surprise your hostess with unexpected  "guests of guests".  Call beforehand, make sure it's okay and bring something edible like an extra pie or casserole AND a couple of bottles of wine.

Family Members:

Avoid confrontations, unpleasant surprises and sarcastic comments.  That's all..

Wait!... and serve your little ones before you and everyone else sits down at the table.


Don't try to cook everything at the last minute.  Be calm, cool and collected by the time your first guest arrives.

Your turkey should be out of the oven at least 1/2 hour before guests arrive and kept warm by tenting it.  Everything should be done by the time the doorbell rings... that includes the gravy.  1/2 hour before serving, stick your casseroles and dressing or stuffing in the oven for warming.

Spend time with your guests and family, that's what this holiday is all about.

Keep the booze light.  Alcohol has a way of un-inhibiting the inhibited and accentuating delusions...

Don't delay the meal waiting for "halftime".  Serve when you are ready!

At this point it's up to the gods of civility.  What will happen is going to happen... you have done your bit.   Don't sweat the small stuff and have a good time!

Have A Happy Stress-Free Thanksgiving!

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Cartoons from

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Sweet And Sour Onions...Cipolline in Agrodolce II

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Modena's aceto balsamico dates back at least to the 11th century, when a written record reports the delivery of a barrel of the extraordinary vinegar to Emperor Henry III as a coronation gift. For centuries, the aceto was made by the local families only for their own use, with the barrels often a prized inclusion in a young woman's dowry.

Here, the aromatic vinegar is combined with sugar to create a rich sweet-and-sour brown glaze for small onions, a favorite dish both in the birthplace of aceto balsamico and in Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna's neighbor to the north. Serve warm for the best flavor as an accompaniment to roast pork or turkey.

If you want to serve something different this Thanksgiving, try this recipe.   It's a good substitute for the creamed onions I so loved.  If you do, you will not have to worry about making a gravy for the turkey.  Trust me.

A couple of years ago I posted a recipe for Cipolline in Agrodolce that was good but nowhere as delicious and authentic as this one.  Last week I spotted a few boxes of cipollini at the grocery store here in Georgia and, in spite of the price, could not resist the impulse.  Think Manolo Blahnik of the onion world...$3.99 for a box of 4. Yes,  that is right, but you know what? they are worth every penny so I looked inside my cart,  took out a couple of things I really didn't need (like milk),  and picked up a couple of boxes.   On my daughter's birthday I served them with broiled pork chops brushed in the final minutes of cooking with some of the balsamic sauce.  To die for...

Mashed potatoes and a pear tart  rounded up the meal.

If you can't find cipollini go ahead and substitute regular pearl onions, but I strongly suggest you make the effort to try one of the best and sweetest onions you will ever taste.  Yes, and that includes Vidalias. Sorry Southern people, the Italians have you beat on this one.

For past Thanksgiving Menus and recipes, enter the word Thanksgiving in the Search box.

Serves 6


  • 2 lb. cipolline or pearl onions
  • 2 cups meat stock
  • 4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbs. sugar
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste


Bring a large saucepan three-fourths full of water to a boil over high heat. Add the onions and cook for 30 seconds. Drain and place under cold running water to halt the cooking. Drain again. Using a small, sharp knife, trim off the root ends and slip off the skins. Do not cut the onions too deeply or they will fall apart.

In a large, heavy fry pan over medium heat, combine the onions, stock and butter. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are partially cooked, about 30 minutes.

Uncover the pan and stir in the vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low and cook, uncovered, shaking the pan occasionally, until the onions are very tender when pierced with a fork, about 30 minutes. Add a little warm water if needed to keep the onions moist.

Transfer to a serving dish and serve warm.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Savoring Series, Savoring Italy, by Michele Scicolone (Time-Life Books, 1999).

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Thanksgiving Make Ahead...Cranberry Pear Relish

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This recipe is from Sheila Lufkins who co wrote The Silver Palate Cookbook.  I have made it for many  Thanksgivings but somehow had forgotten all about it.  It is a strong contender for this year's table.

The best thing about it is you can make it in advance and have one less thing to worry about.  It keeps for over a month in the refrigerator.

When choosing pears, either Anjou or Bosc will do, but Anjou pears are juicier.


4 cups (about 1 pound) fresh cranberries, picked over

2 cups sugar

1 cup fresh orange juice

1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest

2 slightly underripe pears, cored, peeled and cut into 1/3- inch dice


Combine all ingredients in a heavy saucepan and stir well. Place pan over medium heat and boil until berries pop open, about 10 minutes. Skim the foam off the surface with a metal spoon and let the relish cool to room temperature. Refrigerate, covered, for up to 2 months. Makes 10 servings.

Lindaraxa Variations: reduce orange juice by 1/2 cup and add port in the same amount

You might also like:

Cranberry Orange Sauce

Cranberry Sauce With Port

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Meyer Lemon Curd Tart

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A couple of weeks ago, when I had the ladies lunch, one of my new friends brought me a bag of freshly picked Meyer lemons from her garden.  I spent sleepless nights trying to decide what to make with them for this was a real treat and one I could not afford to waste.



My friend had suggested making lemon curd for a cake but I was leaning more towards a tart.   Fortunately,when I checked the recipe I noticed  I had twice the amount of lemons needed to make a tart. My dilemma was solved.  Double the recipe and have your tart and store the rest for a cake down the road.  Unfortunately I tasted so much curd before I canned it I was lucky to end up with four tartelettes instead of the tart. 



Lemon curd can be canned and also keeps well in the refrigerator if you put it in a glass jar with a tight lid

I am sharing the original recipe but I encourage you to double or triple it for a later use.


For the tart shell:
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for greasing, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • Pinch salt
For the lemon curd:
  • 4 lemons, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt


For the tart shell:

Mix the butter and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until they are just combined. Add the vanilla. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then add them to the butter-and-sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and shape into a flat disk. Press the dough into a 10-inch-round or 9-inch-square false-bottom tart pan, making sure that the finished edge is flat. Chill until firm.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Butter 1 side of a square of aluminum foil to fit inside the chilled tart and place it, buttered side down, on the pastry. Fill with beans or rice. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and beans, prick the tart all over with the tines of a fork, and bake again for 20 to 25 minutes more, or until lightly browned. Allow to cool to room temperature.

For the lemon curd:

Remove the zest of the lemons with a vegetable peeler or zester, being careful to avoid the white pith. Squeeze the lemons to make 1/2 cup of juice and set the juice aside. Put the zest in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the sugar and process for 2 to 3 minutes, until the zest is very finely minced. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter with the sugar and lemon zest. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and then add the lemon juice and salt. Mix until combined.

Pour the mixture into a 2-quart saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 10 minutes. The lemon curd will thicken at about 175 degrees F, or just below a simmer. Remove from the heat.

Fill the tart shell with warm lemon curd and allow to set at room temperature.

Recipe adapted from Ina Garten via Food Network
All photos lindaraxa

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Election Night Dinner Party

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If there was a year when I would not have a group of friends over for dinner on election night it would be this one. The battle lines have been drawn and, from what I hear, there might be a few suicides if one's favorite candidate doesn't get elected this time. If you drive around my neighborhood  there are a few discreet  signs up,  all for the same candidate.   In North Georgia, there should be no doubt which one I'm  talking about .  The rest of the neighbors don't dare display their preference for fear their houses might be set on fire.  Whether this is true or not I don't know, but I'm not curious to find out!

In years past I would invite a few friends, both Democrats and Republicans, for dinner to watch the results.   Nothing fancy, just casual fare, lots of ribbing and betting and a fun evening for all, no matter who won. Dinner was served on trays in front of the television set in the library.  I kept it simple, American, and very casual.  Guests helped themselves to drinks from the bar and dinner was served buffet style in the dining room.  Heavy hors d'oeuvre, one main course and dessert.  The main idea was to spend a fun evening together with good friends and comforting food.  The following morning everyone would still be on speaking terms with each other and with their neighbors.  Not this time.

I am sharing below a typical menu from past elections dinners that I won't be cooking this year.   I might just watch a movie, go to bed early and hear the results in the morning.  ( Sure...I will probably be up all night waiting until the last vote is in )

As to the dinner table, my choice would be a blue and white china pattern laid buffet style, white napkins and a solid red centerpiece of carnations and roses, such as the one above.  Otherwise, "white china casual" is your best bet.  Forget the flags!

Election Night Dinner Party

Sliced Smoked Salmon On Pumpernickel Toasts
Sour Cream, Dill, Red Onion, Capers & Lemon 

Bacon On A Date

Cheese Straws

 Pumpkin Soup With Pear And Coriander
Served on Demitasse Cups


The "21" Club Chicken Hash
Wild Rice
Sauteed Spinach

Apple Crisp With Vanilla Ice Cream
Butterscotch Pudding

Pumpkin Soup here
The "21 Club Chicken Hash here
Apple Crisp here
Butterscotch Pudding here 

Photo credit: Carolyne Roehm

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Veal Sauté With Cream, Cognac And Tarragon

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This is one of those recipes that is typical of French country cooking ... delicious but simple and easy to prepare. It is perfect for people like my friend Silvia who love to eat well but don't want to spend too much time in the kitchen.  I hope she's taking note.

The idea came about from the leftover veal which had been sitting in my freezer since Mother left and from the need to cook something on Halloween night that I could prepare late in the afternoon, way before the little monsters started ringing my doorbell.  A quick thumb through  Francoise Bernard's cookbook and, voilà, a decision was made.  All I added was a splash of Cognac and a few carrots.   Oh, and if you want to be really French, a baguette and a glass of French Burgundy are de rigueur!

Serves 4


3 TB butter
2 small onions chopped
3 sprigs of fresh tarragon
2 lbs. boneless veal shoulder cut in 1 1/2 inch pieces
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup Cognac
1/4 cup creme fraiche or heavy cream


 In a heavy casserole melt the butter on medium low heat. Add the chopped onion and cook until translucent.  Add the veal and tarragon stems.  Season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low and cook covered for 1 hour.

Lift the cover, add the Cognac and boil down.  Add the cream and tarragon leaves and cook for a couple of minutes to blend and heat the sauce.  Serve over white rice.

Adapted from Francoise Bernard, La Cuisine

Monday, October 29, 2012

Pumpkin Queso Fundido

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This past weekend we hightailed it to Lake Toxaway, North Carolina where my son's in laws have a lake house.  We couldn't have picked a better time of the year. Although the leaves were a bit past their prime,  the weather was perfect, warm enough during the day to be able to go out on the lake and chilly at night for a big fire.  On Friday night my daughter in law surprised us with this delicious hors d'oeuvre.  Both grownups and little kids lapped it up... perfect  for Halloween parties and Thanksgiving.

Dinner followed with Shish-kebabs on the grill and mashed potatoes with chives.  The whole menu was incredible.  I am so pleased to see her so enthusiastic and adventurous in the kitchen and so confident now that her recipes are proving to be real winners.  She'll be a force to reckon with very soon.

One of the things I like the best about this recipe is the texture it develops while it cooks.  As the pumpkin bakes in the oven the flesh mixes with the cheese, thickens it and gives it a slight pumpkin flavor.  

Serves 6 to 8

  • 1 2-to-3-pound sugar pumpkin
  • 8 ounces dried chorizo, diced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper (remove seeds for less heat), chopped
  • 1 4-ounce can chopped green chiles
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella or Oaxaca cheese
  • 1 cup shredded monterey jack cheese
  • Chopped fresh cilantro, for topping
  • Tortilla chips, for serving

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Slice off the top 1 1/2 inches of the pumpkin and discard. Scoop out the seeds and stringy pulp.

2. Heat the chorizo in a medium pot over medium-high heat until the fat begins to render, about 5 minutes. Add the jalapeno, green chiles, cumin and cayenne and cook, stirring, until the jalapeno softens, about 2 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring, until the flour is slightly toasted, about 2 minutes. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the cheeses. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the cheese melts and the mixture is creamy, about 3 more minutes.

3. Place the pumpkin in a small baking dish and fill the pumpkin with the cheese mixture. Add 1 inch of boiling water to the baking dish. Cover loosely with foil and bake until the pumpkin is tender, about 1 hour, 20 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking until the cheese is golden and bubbly, 20 to 25 more minutes. Let cool 5 to 10 minutes. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve with tortilla chips.

Photograph Lindaraxa
Recipe Food Network Magazine

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

By Request...Fig And Toasted Almond Brie

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This was the most requested recipe at the ladies lunch and the easiest to prepare. 


1/2 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons water

6 fresh figs, stemmed and quartered

1 (14 ounce) round 4 1/4-inch diameter round Brie cheese

1/2 cup toasted almonds

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 C).

Heat brown sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat until sugar is completely dissolved. Add figs and vanilla, and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Stir in almonds.  Place brie wheel in a baking dish, and pour fig mixture over the top.

Bake in the preheated oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until softened but not melted. Serve with crackers or baguette slices.

Recipe Epicurious

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Stuffed Eggplant With Beef And Gruyere

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I have been thinking about what to do with Sandra's gift for a few days and I finally came to the conclusion that the best way to enjoy these small eggplants is to stuff them.  It is a crime to slice and throw them on the grill or to chop them up for caponata or ratatouille.  So off I went looking for a recipe that was a bit out of the ordinary and after finding  none that excited me, I decided to venture out on my own.

The trick here is to precook the eggplant in the skillet until it is almost done but still firm enough to hold the stuffing while it cooks in the oven for an additional  40 minutes.  You want to make sure the eggplant is cooked all the way through, including the skin, by the time you take them out.

This is not your typical tomato based meat stuffing.  I wanted something "mellow" but with a kick which I got by adding a pinch of red pepper flakes to bring the flavor up a notch. Somehow tomato sauce and Gruyere don't pair well in my mind;  but if you want more of a tomato flavor,  just add another tablespoon of the paste.
With a dish like this all you need is a glass of wine and a fresh baguette. 

BTW there is nothing prettier than an uncooked eggplant and nothing uglier or harder to photograph than a stuffed one!  I tried a few angles and different lighting  but after a few tries,  I just gave up. Trust me, they were good.  We had some tonight and the rest are in the fridge until tomorrow when they will go into the freezer for a later time.


6 small eggplants (2 lbs total)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil plus 2 TB for sauteeing the eggplant
4 mashed garlic cloves
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup green or red pepper, finely chopped
1 pound ground beef
1/3 cup dry white wine
2 TB tomato paste
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 Tb. heavy cream
1 cup grated Gruyere
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1 cup grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise and brush them with olive oil.   In a skillet, add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 mashed cloves of garlic.  Cook the garlic for about 5 minutes.  Prick eggplants with a fork and lay them flesh side down in the skillet covered, turning once,  until almost done but still firm enough to hold the stuffing, about 30 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board, slice open and, using a large spoon scoop out the flesh to make a shell about 1/2  inch thick. Finely chop the flesh and set aside.

Heat 4 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium- high heat. Toss in the onion, the peppers and the other 2 cloves of garlic, and cook until everything begins to soften, about 3 to 4 minutes. Crumble in the ground beef and cook until browned slightly, about 5 minutes.   Pour the wine over the meat and cook on high until the wine is almost all absorbed.  Add the 2 TB. tomato paste and mix well into the beef.  Add the  chopped eggplant, and season with 1 teaspoon of the salt. Add a pinch of red pepper flakes to bring the flavors "up".  Cover, and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.  Uncover and add the cream and the Gruyere cheese and finally the bread crumbs.

Scrape into a bowl to cool.  Add parsley and mix well.

Put the eggplant halves in a large baking dish, and drizzle with the remaining 4 tablespoons oil. Sprinkle with the remaining teaspoon salt, and toss well to coat all of the eggplant with the oil. Fill the eggplant halves with the filling, and arrange snugly in the baking dish. Sprinkle with Parmigiano. Cover the dish with foil, and bake until the eggplant is tender all the way through, about 40 to 45 minutes. Uncover, and bake until the top of the filling is browned and crispy, about 10 minutes more.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

A Fall Lunch With New Friends

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The Internet is the gift that keeps on giving and yesterday I hosted a lunch for seven of my newest and now dearest friends.  Five of them I have met through my blog Lindaraxa; the other two are our next door neighbors.  Half of them are gardeners, the other half bridge players, great cooks and avid entertainers.  A great mix for interesting conversation and a fun afternoon, particularly if you serve them Bellinis, white wine and strong Cuban coffee.  They arrived at 1:00 p.m. and the last one staggered home (two doors down...) at 9:00!

This was my first time entertaining in the new house and I was a bit at odds putting the whole thing together.  I have yet to unpack all my dishes and china and half the stuff needed to be cleaned or polished. Luckily, no ironing was involved.  One of the things I found out is that I don't move as fast as I used to and what used to take me an hour, now takes me three.  Besides I was rusty, as I hadn't done a ladies lunch in years;  but in 24 hours it all came back in one fine sweep.  When that doorbell rang, Lindaraxa was ready.

The table was set Wednesday night with pumpkins and gourds from the local pumpkin patch and acorn branches from the woods where we walk the dogs. It was inspired by one of Jenny Hobbicks' table settings. This lady is a Martha Stewart in the making.  Make sure you check out her blog.

One of the most pleasant surprises of the lunch was seeing the ladies arrive each with a gift in hand.  It was like Christmas in October.  A basket from Sandra Jonas with honey from her very own bees, preserved figs from her trees, and green peppers and eggplant from her vegetable garden.  A beautiful orchid,  home grown Meyer lemons, an Amaryllis bulb and a bottle of wine, together with cookies and a new whisk rounded up the loot.   These Southern ladies sure know how to gift!

The loot!

The basket from Sandra's garden with a very disappointed Sous Chef
I think she had something else in mind...

When I plan a ladies lunch, I tend to gravitate to recipes from the past that I know are a treat for women of my generation.  Let's face it, when was the last time you had Shrimp Newburg or Banana Cake With Banana Cream Frosting? Usually when it comes to dessert time, I always get a couple of "no I shouldn't, really can't" comments.  This time, not a peep!

The Menu

Chicken Liver Mousse 
Fig And Toasted Almond Brie 
Mini Toasts



Shrimp Newburg on Puff Pastry Shells
Mandarin Orange and Red Onion Salad With Caramelized Almonds

Chateau St. Michelle Chardonay


Banana Cake With Banana Cream Frosting

Cuban Coffee 

Photos 2, 3, 4, 5, 8 Sandra Jonas
the rest Lindaraxa 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

New York Strip Steaks With Mushrooms in a Sherry Beef Reduction

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I don't spend too much time at the grocery store these days.  Everything has gotten so expensive it is no longer the fun experience it used to be in the past.   I just go with my list, concentrate on what I need, and do not dilly dally in the aisles.  The other day, though, something caught my eye as I was skating through the soup aisle and I ended up picking up a box of Swanson's Flavor Boost (Beef).  It reminded me of something my mother used to get in the old days from Canada called OXO to boost sauces. I have used it twice since that day.  Once in the Braised Short Ribs with Polenta I cooked last week for guest and tonight in a mushroom sauce I made to accompany  New York Strip steaks.  The flavor was unsurpassed.  I highly recommend you pick up some.

Knorr makes something similar and I will try theirs next. 

Here is what i did.

Grill your steaks as you would normally do.  I usually just marinade them in some Worcestershire Sauce and sprinkle sea salt. Mine were about an inch and a half thick.  On hot coals,  cook 5 minutes on one side, same on the other, then two minutes on both sides and out of the grill.  Rest for 10 minutes.  In the meantime cook your mushrooms.

Mushrooms in a Sherry Beef Reduction


1 small box of regular mushrooms sliced
2 TB butter
1 Tb. olive oil
3 garlic cloves smashed and minced
2 TB. minced shallots
1 big splash of Dry Sherry
1 envelope Swanson's Beef Flavor Boost
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley


Heat your skillet on medium high.  Melt butter and olive oil, add the garlic and. cook for a couple of minutes.  Do not let it burn .  Add the mushrooms and brown for about 3 minutes. Add the shallots and cook for another minute or so.  Add a big splash of dry Sherry, about 1/2 cup, and reduce.  Add one envelope of the beef stock reduction and cook for about a minute until everything looks caramelized.  Add the chopped parsley and off the stove.  Keep warm while the steaks rest.  Pour over the steaks and enjoy! I served with small sauteed  golden potatoes.

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