Sunday, March 30, 2014

The View From The Top Of The Stairs By The Sous Chef

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They think I'm asleep...Ha!

Yo! this is Lucy Westie, Sous Chef of Lindaraxa. Head of Security Services and Cuddler Par Excellence.

I've been sent to entertain you, seeing that we don't have a kitchen this week.  My two legged sister has decided to do some reno..something and put in a new back splash and countertop, as well as some lights.  She's been watching HGTV.  Boy does she love that channel.  At first I thought we were moving, AGAIN.  Seeing all those boxes and packing material sent me into a tizzy.  I rushed upstairs and told Lily and she went into a tizzy too.  After a couple of days we finally calmed down.  I had all my coats and collars packed.  All for nothing.  Just a reno-something.  Stupid word..

Best spot in the house....and best view of the kitchen

I was going to post my favorite recipe, steak!  but Mom thought it would be more entertaining if I told you about Coco and me.  What's so intereting about that?! We eat, we sleep, we poop and then do the same all over again.

For Mom's sake, and her frail heart condition (sure), I've decided to play along and behave.  Yes, I have let it be known that I'm not thrilled with the idea of cohabitating with a c-a-t (I can't even say the word) by marking my spot all over the house.  This sends Mom and Sis into a tizzy.  I don't understand why. They mark every day, at least three times a day.  It's called a toilet! Anyway, they took me to the vet.  Mom told the lady in the white coat I must have an infection.  They had the audacity to weigh me first.  WHY?! why do people in white coats always want to know how much you weigh.  Mom says they do the same to her and she gets mortified.  What's mortified? Anyway, then they took me in the back and did unmentionable things to me.  UNMENTIONABLE! I heard something about having to stay overnight.  Mom nearly lost it.  She and I have never spent a night away from each other.  Except when she travels and then I stay with my sister.  I love that.  So they gave me pills.  One day Mom took one by mistake.  She's useless before her coffee.

Did I hear chopping on the wood board???

Anyway, aside from the kitchen being a disaster, nothing interesting is going on in the backyard.  No flowers, nothing.  It's cold, really cold.  Mom hasn't even switched my winter collar to my pretty Spring Kate Spade.  I heard Mom moaning over her burnt gardenias.  Her prize gardenias.  She says there's a chance they'll come back.  I doubt it.  They're deader than a door nail.  I do hope for all our her sakes they come back.  Mom will be devastated. 

Mom says you might want to hear about that moronic cat Coco.  No one calls her Coco.  I don't know why they gave her that silly name.  They call her kitty.  Kitty this, kitty that.  They've spoiled the name for me.  I used to bloom when I heard the word.  Ears up, well at least one of them, tail on alert, point and dash.  Now it's just another word.  I don't even trust squirrel.  What if they bring one inside.  Kitty Coco is  okay sometimes.  She lets me chase her for a bit out in the yard but then she spoils it by climbing up a tree.  Not fair.  That'd be cheating in my book.  Only good thing about her is she starts meowing for her food every day at four o'clock.  I didn't know cats had alarms in them.   Cool!  Now we puppies get fed earlier. I gobble mine up but my sister Lily refuses to eat at such an undignified hour.   Silly girl, more for me.

Don't let this picture fool you...I was just too lazy to move

Maybe they come tomorrow to finish the kitchen.  Maybe not.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  Mom doesn't seem to mind.  She's taking a break from cooking.  My two legged sister is going bonkers.  She's never done a reno....whatever.  She thinks they go according to plan.  Ha! I've been through one with Mom and believe me, it wasn't pretty.  Mom wasn't pretty.  She turned into a monster at the end.  One day I thought the men in white coats were going to come and take her away.

So we wait and don't cook.  No recipes.  Not today.  Sorry.....


Saturday, March 22, 2014

Char-Grilled Broccoli Salad With Sweet Tahini

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This salad is loved even by those who claim not to like tahini.  It is delightful as part of a cold buffet or a picnic.
I am on an adventurous streak these days, experimenting with new flavors and cuisines instead of falling back on that which is familiar.  Perhaps it has to do with Spring and its association with new beginnings.  Maybe it's just a phase or an "itch", but the truth is I want to feel excited again about cooking.

Discovering Yotam Ottolenghi has opened new doors for me and has introduced me to new dishes, new flavors and spices  I had never heard of.  It has also pushed me to go out on a limb and experiment with the unknown.  It has been almost as good as having an affair!

Take tahini paste.  First time I tried it was three years ago in hummus.  It took me awhile to like hummus but once I did, I couldn't stop eating it.  A couple of months ago, I bought my first bottle of tahini and made Roasted Red Pepper Hummus from scratch.  Little steps...
The recipe below is the second time I use tahini, this time to make a delicious drizzle for a broccoli salad.  The Ladies Who Lunch (and travel to London) will be most impressed.  They have heard of Ottolenghi.
Tahini  is a paste made from ground, hulled sesame seeds used in North African, Greek, Turkish, and Middle Eastern cuisine. It is served as a dip on its own or as a major component of hummus and other dishes.  Nowadays you can find it in most supermarkets.  I found mine in the Jewish section at Publix.

I promise you I am not going to turn this blog into a Middle Eastern affair but I will, from time to time, introduce you to new flavors and spices.  I hope you enjoy delving into the unknown and the unexpected, once in awhile, and join me on this culinary adventure. I can't think of a better guide than Yotam Ottolenghi.

We had the broccoli salad last night, together with grilled chicken and royal basmati and wild rice.   We both loved it but agreed that it would show off best if served as part of a cold meal or buffet.

Char-grilled sprouting broccoli with sweet tahini

Serves four.

550g broccoli (1 head)
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and black pepper
1 1/2 oz/40g tahini paste
1½ tsp honey
2 tsp lemon juice
1 small garlic clove, peeled and crushed
1 tsp each black and white sesame seeds, toasted (or just 2 tsp white)

Trim any big leaves off the broccoli and cut off the woody base of the stems. Blanch for three minutes in boiling, salted water until al dente, refresh, drain and leave to dry.

Toss the broccoli in the oil, a teaspoon of salt and a large pinch of pepper, then cook on a very hot ridged griddle pan for two minutes on each side, until slightly charred and smoky. Set aside to cool.

Whisk the tahini, honey, lemon juice, garlic and a pinch of salt, and slowly start to add water half a tablespoon at a time. At first, the sauce will look as if it has split, but it will soon come back together.

Add just enough water to make the sauce the consistency of honey – around three tablespoons in total. Arrange the broccoli on a platter, drizzle with sauce and scatter with sesame seeds. Serve at room temperature.

Recipe Yotam Ottolenghi
All photos Lindaraxa


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Quick Shortcuts For Grilled Pork Skewers With Peppers, Onion And Pineapple

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We all know that meat, in order to be flavorful, needs to marinade before grilling.  We also know that pork tenderloin tends to be dry, as it does not have much fat; thus it must cook in some type of fat to avoid drying out.

One of my favorite shortcuts to marinade meats before grilling is the Good Seasons Italian Dressing.  You know, the one that comes with its cruet and all you do is add olive oil, vinegar and water.  I have been buying it for years, long before I became Lindaraxa and started publishing a food blog, so don't get on my case. Habits like this don't die easily.  It is one of those things that stays with you most of your life.   My daughter is the main culprit these days.   She uses it on the salads she takes to work most every day.    It was actually my brother, the grill master, who turned me on to using it as a marinade, so it runs in the family.

One of the things I found in the freezer while I was cleaning it last week was a piece of uncooked pork tenderloin I had saved from Christmas.  There were fewer of us for the Cuban Christmas Day lunch than I had anticipated so I cut off a piece and saved it for another time.  So here we were three months later.  Part of it was grilled for this recipe and the other went into Sweet and Sour Pork to use up the leftover pineapple as well.   Using up leftovers is a challenge, but it's fun.

Another product we use all the time in our marinades is Mc Cormick's Grill Mates Montreal Steak Seasoning  which is both salty and hot.  We marinade the meat with it for about 30 minutes, together with Worcestershire Sauce. I buy the latter by the gallon and use it in every type of cuisine.  I really don't know what I would do without it.

I am not going to give you a "recipe" for this.  It doesn't need one.  You can make it for two or a dozen.  It's fairly easy and quick and great for when you are having guests at the last minute.

Figure on about 1 1/2 lbs of pork tenderloin for 4 people.  Cut into 1/2 inch pieces

Marinade the pork in the  prepared Good Seasons Italian dressing (about 1/2 cup), or any other ready made Italian dressing such as Paul Newman's, together with some orange juice (about 1/4 cup) and soy sauce (a couple of TB) for at least 30 minutes

Preheat your grill.

Cut (1 each) the onion, red pepper, green or yellow pepper and pineapple chunks in 1 inch pieces.

Thread the pork and the vegetables and pineapple through a skewer, alternating.  Try to place the meat in the middle (it needs more cooking) and the fruit and peppers at the end.  Place back in the marinade for a few more minutes until your grill is hot enough.

Shake some Montreal Seasoning on both sides before grilling.

Grill the skewers for about 5 minutes on each side.  While it is cooking, reduce the marinade on top of the stove and baste your skewers with it after each turn. When done, sprinkle some cilantro and serve. That's it!

Serve with yellow saffron rice.

I have not received payment for endorsing any of the products mentioned above

All photos Lindaraxa

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Sunday Orchids

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While everyone else is looking forward to the Spring blooms, may I remind you that this is the time for orchids, at least for Phalaenopsis.  I purchased mine about a month ago, two doubles in fuchsia and another two in white.  The former have it all over the whites although, in all fairness, they are hogging the best spot in the house, the East window in the kitchen.   If they stay there, they will continue blooming for another month or two.  I am torn between keeping them there or giving the white ones equal time.  They need it the most.

An East exposure is the best place to put your orchids.  They get the morning sun and good light throughout the day.  Water them once a week, always in the morning.  Put them in the sink and run water through them for about 15 seconds.  Leave to drain for about 15 minutes, or until they are completely drained.

When they are done, cut them about half an inch above the second node from the bottom.  Fertilize every two weeks with 1/4 tsp. per gallon of water and chances are they will bloom again.  Continue caring for them, watering every week and fertilizing as above and they will bloom again in the late Fall...almost in time for Christmas.  That's all.

If you are hesitant at the cost, think twice.  A bunch of tulips for about $ 8 dollars will last you, with luck, a week.  These doubles were each $12 and they will last at least 2 months.  I don't have to do the math for you.

In my opinion. the white phalaenopsis are the prettiest and they go with everything, including tulips, daffodils and all the other Spring blooms. I find they are more temperamental than the other colors, but maybe that is all in my mind.  These purple color ones seemed to be the sturdiest ones at the store and they have proven me right.  They sit in my kitchen counter and are just thriving.

The addition of succulents to the bottom of the pot seems to be a new decorating idea.  I love it.  Now while they are dormant, I just water the roots when I water the rest of the plant.  The pot is covered in moss and placed in a wicker basket.  I also have a blue Chinese porcelain pot to display some of  the white ones in the great room.

Look at the leaves in your plant and they will tell you a lot.  Unlike other indoor plants, if the leaves  are a dark green that means they are not getting enough light.  You want the leaves a medium to light green as above.  If the flowers and the leaves are droopy, that means they are in need of water.  You don't need to talk to your orchids...just give them a loving look each day and they will let you know what they need.  That's all.  


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Curried Rice With Fish And Shrimp

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Remember the Venetian Fish Stew?  Well it just metamorphosed (is that a word?!) into a delightful and very simple curry flavored rice with fish and shrimp.  That is, if you saved the broth from the stew, which I did.

 It seemed such a shame to throw away the small amount of stew and stock that was left that I boiled it down and made a strong broth thinking of freezing it for a later date.  But I never did.  Instead I put it to good use a couple of nights later.  There were a few other things I wanted to use up, like the canned peas and pimientos, so why not get cracking.

When you have a good broth, chances are that whatever you cook with it will be pretty good.  I actually wanted to turn the leftovers into a completely different dish,  so I started to think of some of my favorite spices like coriander, cumin and saffron.  The broth had a lot of different flavors in it so I didn't want to go overboard.  The rest was easy and rice was a given.

If you don't have good stock to fall back on, just make the fish stock or brodo in the recipe and take it from there. It will take you less than 20 minutes.  Just make plenty so you can freeze and put it to good use in another dish.  That's the trick of the trade!

This is a great Sunday lunch recipe for family or guests.  If you have the broth already made, it will take you about 40 minutes to make, including the cooking time.  Now how can you beat that.

Curried Rice With Fish And Shrimp

Serves 4

2 TB olive oil
1 tsp. coriander seeds
1 tsp. cumin powder
1 tsp. turmeric
1 bay leaf
2 tsp. curry powder
1/2 tsp. saffron threads
2 cups homemade fish broth
1 cup of rice
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup white wine
4 - 6 white fish filets, like flounder
12 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
Le Seur baby peas
roasted red peppers o pimiento strips
Salt and Pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees

Bring the fish broth to a boil and add the saffron threads.  Stir and keep warm.

Add the oil to an oven proof casserole and, when it's hot, add the coriander, cumin, curry powder and turmeric.  Cook for a minute or two.  Add the rice and move it around to make sure it is well coated with the oil and spices.  Add the bay leaf and some salt and pepper.  Add the wine bring to a boil and reduce until half the liquid has been absorbed.  Add the coconut milk and half the broth and stir.  Cook the rice until almost all the liquid has been absorbed. Remove from the stove and nestle the shrimp in the rice.  Place the fish filets on top. Add the other cup of broth.

Cook in the preheated oven until the rice is fully cooked, about 10 more minutes.  If you see that all the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is not fully cooked, add some wine and continue cooking for another 5 minutes.

Take the rice out of the oven and scatter the peas and  pimiento strips on top.  Lightly drizzle the fish with olive oil before serving.

All photos Lindaraxa


Saturday, March 8, 2014

Spring is Here!...Fettuccine With Smoked Salmon And Dill Sauce

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Yes it's really here, finally...Spring!  The daffodils are blooming, the weeds are coming out and tonight we set our clocks forward to Daylight Savings Time.  Whoever thought of that is a genius!

We have spent the day laying mulch in the flower beds, cleaning around the azalea bushes, which were full of dead leaves, and spraying Roundup around the paths (and other places)  without my daughter knowing I am doing such a criminal enterprise.  Yes, she gets mad at me but I'm certainly not going to spend all my time digging up weeds where I don't need to.  I am a tired puppy and I hurt all over, but it feels good.  Nothing a couple of Tylenol and a vodka on the rocks, or two, can't cure.
I feel safer working in the garden now that I have Coco guarding the yard!

When the daffodils come out and the clock gets moved up one hour, it is time to think Spring and shelve all those comfort food cold weather recipes.  Good bye stews, goodbye braising, hello grills and welcome asparagus, strawberries know the rest.

A couple of nights ago, in anticipation of a warm spell, we had this iconic Spring pasta.  Well, at least, iconic to me.  For some reason, when I think of Spring I think of salmon, smoked or otherwise.  It is a wonderful recipe for a midweek dinner or for a ladies lunch.  Your pick.
I used Spinach fettuccine but regular will do.  The cream sauce is light but nicely coats the pasta and salmon.  A teaspoon of grated lemon rind is the icing on the cake, a suggestion from my daughter.  I know you will enjoy it as much as we did.



4 ounces thinly sliced smoked salmon or mild lox
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons minced shallots
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup whipping cream
6 ounces fettuccine
2 tablespoons snipped fresh dill
Small sprigs of dill, for garnish
1 tsp. grated lemon rind


Cut the smoked salmon in lengthwise strips about two inches by three- eighths inch, cutting with the grain, so strips hold together better.

Combine the shallots and wine in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Cook over low heat about five minutes or until the liquid is reduced to about two tablespoons.

Stir in the cream, and return to a boil. Cook over medium heat about six minutes or until the sauce is thick enough to lightly coat a spoon.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil; add the pasta. Cook, uncovered, over high heat, separating strands occasionally with a fork, for 30 seconds to two minutes for fresh pasta or two to five minutes for dried, or until tender but firm to the bite. Drain well. Transfer to a heated platter.

Bring sauce to a boil. Remove it from heat and stir in the snipped dill. Pour the sauce over noodles and toss. Gently stir in the salmon, using a large fork. Add salt and pepper to taste (salt may not be needed, depending on the saltiness of the smoked salmon or lox). Garnish with dill sprigs, lemon rind and serve. Makes four servings.

Recipe adapted from Faye Levy Sensational Pasta
All photos Lindaraxa

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Perfect Menu For A Mardi Gras Dinner

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From the archives, four recipes to celebrate Mardi Gras:

top photo credit Flickr

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Venetian Fish Soup Or Stew

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This is probably one of the best fish soups or stews you will ever eat.  It is a classic at Harry's Bar in Venice.

 Having lucked out on some fish this week, I decided to serve it as a stew by adding more fish and shrimp and serving it with white rice on the side. I also cut the pieces slightly larger than I would for a soup.  Either way, it is fish soup (or stew) at its best, but only if you follow it to a t and use good fresh fish.
I know I have just published a recipe from Harry's (the cannelloni) and you may be wondering what's up with me.  While looking for the pasta recipe I came across this and decided I must try it.  Heaven knows I have heard raves about it but never had enough room in me to have both this and a pasta when I visited the restaurant.    So I had to give it a go before this winter was over and here we are, March 1st.  The daffodils are about to pop.

Although I served it for dinner tonight, it would also make a fine main course for Sunday lunch with friends or family.

Make sure you make the fish broth from scratch.  A good stock can make or break a soup or stew like this and fish cubes don't cut the mustard here.  Trust me, the end result will more than reward you.
I used fresh mahi mahi and flash frozen cod.  Fresh shrimp would be great.

Don't skip anything, and that includes the anchovies and the parsley.  I know you are frowning at the former and consider the latter a waste of time.  They are not.
Make sure you accompany with a fresh baguette even if you serve with rice on the side.

The real color of the soup is a beautiful saffron or that of butternut squash.  Not being a great photographer, I had to touch up and it came out like this. 

 Venetian Fish Soup

Serves 6 to 8 as a first course or 6 if doubling the fish and shrimp and serving with rice as a stew.


  • 2 stalks celery, cut into julienne strips
  • 2 medium onions, julienned
  • 1 carrot, julienned
  • 1/3 c. olive oil
  • 1 medium tomato, peeled, seeded, julienned
  • 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 8 cups stock (brodo) -- fish or half fish and half vegetable
  • 1/4 (or more) t. saffron threads (steep in tablespoon of hot stock for20 minutes)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • pinch cayenne
  • salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 lb. EACH of two kinds of boneless, skinless white fish (such as halibut, sea bass, monkfish) cut into 1/2 inch. pieces
  • 1/2 lb. medium shrimp (shelled, deveined), cut into thirds
  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • 1 clove garlic, minced                                                 
  • 2 canned anchovy fillets, drained and chopped (or use anchovy paste)
  • 3 flat leaf parsley sprigs, chopped
  • fresh rosemary, leaves from 1 sprig chopped (or pinch dried)
  • fresh thyme, leaves from 1 sprig chopped (or pinch dried)

  • First make the brodo or stock (See below). Set aside. 
  • Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in large saucepan over medium heat.
  • Add celery, onions and carrot and cook, stirring often for 5 minutes or until soft but not brown.
  • Add tomato and cook for 1 minute
  • Stir in 1/4 c. flour and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  • Stir in wine and bring to a boil, then simmer, stirring often, for 2-3 minutes, until mixture has thickened.
  • Stir in stock, saffron, bay leaf, cayenne, salt and pepper to taste, and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, for 20 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, combine remaining flour with 1/4 t. salt and 1/4 t. pepper in plastic bag, and toss fish and shrimp until well coated.
  • Heat 2 Tbsp. of the oil in large skillet over medium-high heat, and cook fish and shrimp, stirring, for 2-3 minutes until browned and just cooked. Don't overcook.
  • Add brandy to skillet to warm it, then (standing back) ignite brandy. Swirl the skillet until flames die down, then add contents of skillet to soup.
  • Wipe out skillet and heat remaining oil over medium heat. Add remaining ingredients, anchovies, rosemary, thyme, parsley and garlic and cook for a minute or two.  Pour the flavored oil through a strainer into the soup.   Let flavors blend a few minutes before serving.

Brodo (fish stock):

2 to 3 lbs bones of any white fish
1 medium onion cut in chunks
2 leeks, white part only, washed and sliced
1 celery rib cut in chunks
2 quarts cold water
1 cup dry white wine
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp salt
bouquet garni of
3 flat leaf parsley sprigs
1 thyme sprig
1 bay leaf
10 peppercorns all tied in cheesecloth

Throw everything in a stock pot, bring to a boil and cook for 20 minutes on medium partially covered.  Let cool.  Strain through a fine sieve into a bowl

Recipe adapted from Harry's Bar Cookbook
All photos Lindaraxa

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