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.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A WWII Veteran Needs Our Help!

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George and his beloved dogs

I know this is a blog about food and entertaining but when I learned of this unfortunate situation I knew I had  to mobilize my resources and  help a family in urgent need.

As you all know by now, social media is instrumental in promoting a blogger's work and not only does Lindaraxa have a Twitter account, but so does my sous chef @lucywestie.  Behind all the pets on Twitter are real human beings, many of whom I have met in person and become good friends.  Others are in faraway places from the Orkney Islands to Australia but never more than a tweet away.  We have shared many good times together but  have also been there to support those who needed it.  All in 140 characters.

One of the most popular "anipals" , and perhaps the funniest of them all, is a Bichon by the name of @missbusybiz. Her mother and the real voice behind "Missy"  is Francy Saunders, a professional senior care giver and a friend of Lindaraxa since the beginning. I  found out today that Francy and her family have lost their home and are in the process of packing their belongings and trying to find a home that will keep them all together.  This process is specially hard as Francy's husband  is in the final stages of advanced Alzheimer's.  George, a World War II veteran,  frequently cannot even remember how to walk, leaving him bed-bound and helpless, as his mind drifts in and out of reality. His only constant is Francy and the dogs, Missy and Kirby.  This, of course, leaves Francy drained emotionally and physically from lifting him but you would never guess it from her tweets.  Twitter and the character of @missbusybiz are her only outlet after a long day of caring for George.  How she does it, I don't know.

Francie and her dogs Missy (front) and Kirby

Doctors have told Francy moving house is possibly critically dangerous for George because of the stress he will go thru, which will spike his already severe Alzheimers, but sadly the situation is out of her hands. Foreclosure papers have already been sent. He cannot be placed in care because they cannot afford to pay for it. Francy is well known for her blog: Senior Care Tips For Family but even she didn’t see this coming. Francy also tweets under @SeniorCareTips and @WritersThatChat.

I have not been on Twitter much lately but had noticed that Missy was noticeably absent from my stream.  I understand from friends that she has been quite stoic about the situation claiming she was just tired when asked what was wrong.  For a long time, the family has been living on the bare minimum from George's military pension as Francy had to quit her job to take care of him.  A few months ago when their electric bill was about to be cut off, her friends on Twitter got together and paid it.  They have sent her food, clothes and one even pays for the dog food every month.  That is how dire the situation is.

A friend of Francy is helping to move her and has offered to pay her first and last month's rent.  She needs a place that will take in her family including her pets.  Twitter pals have organized themselves to give her a virtual party on Twitter this Wednesday to lift her spirits.  They have also set up a  ChipIn box  should you care to help. It will be really appreciated, at least to get them settled in.  But folks, this family needs more than a few dollars.  They need to be able to stay in their home with no worries.  I cannot believe that in this country a World War II veteran in the final stages of Alzheimer's can be displaced from his home.

More than anything, I am asking for help in passing the story along, especially to the right sources.  Any help or suggestions you can give us that would help the family stay in their home would be most appreciated.  The family lives south of Seattle, Washington.


My email is should you care to contact me directly.

Other friends helping the family:
here , here and here
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