Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas Recipe - Provencal Turkey Roast

My husband is French, and he prefers his holiday meals with a French accent. This Provencal Turkey Roast with Riesling is perfect for either Thanksgiving or Christmas. And it’s so easy to prepare, much easier than a whole turkey. There are no bones to worry about, and carving couldn’t be easier. Braised in fruity Riesling wine from the Alsace region of France, the white meat is light and juicy. You don’t have to get up early on holidays, either, at least not for this turkey. While it does require two hours in the oven, it takes only minutes to prepare. And the sweet shallot gravy is certainly a plus.
Provencal Turkey Roast with Riesling


1 4- to 4 ½ pound turkey breast roast, without bones, tied by your butcher
2 T. Herbes de Provence
8 sage leaves
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 T. Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper
3 T. olive oil, plus 1 T.
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 carrots, sliced on the bias into chunks
10 cipollini onions, peeled
1 C. low sodium chicken stock
1 C. dry Riesling wine
2 T. butter
3 shallots, finely chopped
2 T. flour


1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.

2. Set the turkey breast roast in a roasting pan and make the rub by mixing together the herbes de Provence, chopped fresh sage, rosemary, and thyme, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper, 3 tablespoons of olive oil, and garlic. Use your hands to pack the herb paste on the turkey breast, and make sure your rub it all over the roast.

3. Toss the chunks of carrots can cipollini onions with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and salt and pepper. Scatter then in the roasting pan on either side of the turkey breast.

4. Pour the chicken stock and Riesling wine into the bottom of the roasting pan around the turkey.

5. Roast in oven for two (2) hours, basting occasionally.

6. While the turkey rests, make the shallot gravy by melting butter in a saucepan, then adding the shallots and sautéing for five (5) minutes until they are translucent. Add the flour and cook for one (1) minute more. Pour in the roasting sauce and turkey juices, and whisk until thickened – about three (3) or four (4) more minutes.

7. Cut the string off the turkey, and slice the roast. Serve with the roasted vegetables alongside and the gravy on top.

Serves about six.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Christmas Recipe - Christmas Grog

The first people who drank grog drank nothing but a mixture of hot rum and water, sometimes with a few spices sprinkled on top. Not bad, but not nearly as good as what we enjoy today.

In the 18th century, Edward Vernon, a British admiral, was nicknamed "Old Grog" because of the grogram fabric he liked to wear. "Old Grog" served his men a pint of rum a day in an attempt to prevent scurvey. Of course it didn't work, but his sailors enjoyed their admiral's efforts. :) Then "Old Grog" issued the now-famous Captain's Order Number 349, stating that all rum must be mixed with water, a dash of brown sugar, and lime juice in order to make it more palatable. The sailors really didn't like this too well, but nevertheless, they christened the weakened drink after Vernon.

Grog has undergone many changes since "Old Grog's" sailors drank it. Today, we drink grog comfortingly warm or refreshingly cool, and we enjoy it either way. Surprisingly, the rum originally used in grog didn't become available to the general public until the 1980s. (Yes, the 1980s!) It is sold under the label, "Pusser's Navy Rum," pusser being navy slang for purser, the person who sold the rum to the sailors. (And by the way, the British navy stopped rationing rum to its sailors only in the late 1970s.)

And if you're ever told you have "grog blossoms," you might want to check the mirror. Grog blossoms refer to the broken blood vessels in your nose - an effect of drinking too much of this delicious beveridge.

Warm grog is always a great drink to have around Christmastime, and it lends itself especially well to parties. Just make sure designated drivers stay far away from the drink (and all other alcoholic drinks), and don't let even non-drivers have too much. It is potent.


2 ounces dark rum, preferably Pusser's Navy Rum
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice (make sure this is fresh)
1 teaspoon brown sugar
4 ounces hot water
Slice of orange
Cinnamon stick


Mix the rum, lime juice, brown sugar and hot water together until the brown sugar is dissolved.

Serve warm garnished with a slice of orange and a cinnamon stick.

You won't even feel the cold!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Recipe - Pumpkin Pie Pancakes

Can’t get enough of holiday pumpkin pies? Or, do you simply love pumpkin and wish you knew a different way to use it other than in pies. If you do, we’ve got the answer for you – Pumpkin Pie Pancakes. These terrific pancakes have all the spice of pumpkin pie and are wonderful with maple syrup for breakfast, or made thin - crepe-style - and served with ice cream for dessert or brunch.

If you’re making them for brunch, you can save some time by whisking all the dry ingredients together the night before and keeping them covered at room temperature. Whisk the wet ingredients together as well, but keep them covered and refrigerated. You can even measure out the pumpkin puree and keep it covered and chilled as well.

Pumpkin Pie Pancakes


1 C. all-purpose flour
1/4 C. granulated sugar
3 T. (packed) light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of cloves
Pinch of salt
1 1/3 C. buttermilk
2 large eggs
4 T. unsalted butter, melted
2 T. dark rum
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 C. unsweetened pumpkin puree
Maple syrup or ice cream for topping


1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt.

2. In another bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, eggs, melted butter, rum and vanilla, and blend thoroughly.

3. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and mix with the whisk, stopping when everything is just combined. (Don't worry if the batter is a bit lumpy.)

4. With a rubber spatula, gently but thoroughly fold in the pumpkin puree.5. If necessary, lightly butter, oil or spray your griddle or skillet.

6. Preheat over medium heat or, if you're using an electric griddle, set it to 350°F. If you want to hold the pancakes until serving time (or for up to 20 minutes), preheat your oven to 200°F.

7. Spoon 1/4 cup of batter onto the griddle for each pancake, allowing space for spreading. When the undersides of the pancakes are golden and the tops are lightly speckled with bubbles that pop and stay open, flip the pancakes over with a wide spatula and cook until the other sides are light brown. (These are soft and puffy, so turn carefully.)

8. Serve immediately, or keep the finished pancakes in the preheated oven while you make the rest of the batch.
Yield: Sixteen 4 1/2 inch pancakes

Monday, October 27, 2008

Recipe - Candied Pumpkin for Halloween! :)

Since it's almost time for Halloween, how about some candied pumpkin? I love this recipe. :)

Candied Pumpkin


2 small pumpkins or 2 large winter squash
¼ C. slaked lime (cal or builder's lime, available where building materials are sold)
7 C. water
10 C. dark brown sugar or piloncillo
3 C. white sugar
6 cinnamon sticks, 2 ½"- 3" long
¾ tablespoon anise seeds
½ teaspoon whole cloves
2 C. heavy cream for whipping (optional but delicious)


1. Perforate the pumpkin or squash with holes about the diameter of a drinking straw, making 8-10 wholes for a small pumpkin. The holes should go all the way through the shells.

2. Place the pumpkins in a large stockpot with the slaked lime and water to cover and soak for 3 hours. Remove pumpkins from lime solution, drain and rinse thoroughly.

3. Put the pumpkins back in the stockpot with the 7 cups water and remaining ingredients (except the whipping cream) which will form a syrup. Cook over medium heat for 2 hours or until the pumpkins are tender, basting with the syrup from time to time.

4. Allow the pumpkins to cool in the syrup. Cut into pieces and serve pieces topped with syrup and whipped cream. Pumpkins may be prepared ahead and stored up to 4 days in the refrigerator, with the syrup stored in a separate container in the refrigerator. If using whipped cream, whip just before serving.

Each pumpkin serves 8.

Recipe - Double Apple Cinnamon Smoothie

Want to enjoy the great taste of apples, but still eat healthy? We already know apples are good for us, but it's been discovered that cinnamon is heart healthy as well. You can replace a meal with this delicious and filling Double Apple Cinnamon Smoothie. I love it, and I think you will, too. Just make sure you top it with enough cinnamon to be healthful. Enjoy!


1/4 C. frozen apple juice concentrate, not thawed
1/2 C. cinnamon applesauce
3/4 C. vanilla or plain fat-free or light soymilk
3/4 C. low-fat vanilla frozen yogurt
1/8 teaspoon apple pie spice
Powdered cinnamon


1. Combine all ingredients in a blender container.

2. Cover; blend at high speed for 1 minute.

3. Pour into frosty mugs, if desired, and top with powdered cinnamon.

Yield: 2 servings.

Fall Shopping Tips - Apples

There are hundreds of varieties of apples. Some are tart, some are sweet, some have a honeyed taste, and some are rather floral. Whatever variety you prefer, look for apples that are hard, with the stems still attached and no bruises. The skin can be glossy or rough, but it should always be taut, never wrinkled. Apples don't keep as long as many people think, and should be used within two weeks of purchase. Store them in a cool place in your kitchen or refrigerate then uncovered. If you want to cut up some to freeze for pies and tarts later in the year, try using McIntosh. This variety freezes well.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Safe Grilling Practices

Summertime means grill time. Thanks to new technologies, grilling, whether with charcoal or propane, has never been safer. Still, you need to take some precautions every time you're at the grill. Below are some tips to keep you safe and keep grill time fun time:

Grilling Safety

1. Follow the instructions in your owner's manual on safely lighting and operating your grill.

2. Keep your grill at least five feel from anything combustible, including your house, your garage, treated wood, a wood deck, a patio, or a porch. And for goodness sake, never grill inside a garage.

3. Never use a grill indoors (and this includes the garage) or under a covered patio.

4. Never add lighter fluid to a fire that's already been lighted. The time to add this is before you light the fire.

5. Never use a grill that wobbles, leans, or is in any way unstable.

6. Never store a propane tank in an enclosed space including your house, garage, or storage shed.
7. Keep sleeves and garments out of the line of fire. Wear appropriate clothing when you grill.

8. Keep a fire extinguisher close by in case of a mishap. We hope you'll never have to use one, but you really never know.

9. Never pour water on a grease fire. Instead, cover a charcoal grill and close all vents. Turn off gas grills at their source.

10. Keep children and pets away from a hot grill.

11. When you've finished using a charcoal grill, close the lid and all the vents. If you've been using gas, turn off the LP tank and then the burners.

Food Safety

1. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before starting any meal preparation and after handling fresh meat, fish, or poultry.

2. Thoroughly defrost foods in the refrigerator, never on the countertop.

3. Use a clean spatula or tongs to remove food from the grill.

4. Place foods removed from the grill on a clean plate.

5. Always grill ground meats to at least 160 degrees and grill all poultry to 170 degrees to ensure killing any bacteria.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Recipe - Pulled Pork Barbecue Sandwich

It's summertime and that means picnic time. While the following recipe isn't one you barbecue on the grill, it is wonderful for summer picnics and suppers, especially when served with onion rings, baked beans, or sweet slaw. In fact, in the some areas of the south, cole slaw is served on top of the sandwich. I prefer the slaw as a side dish, however.

Pulled Pork Barbecue Sandwich


3 lbs. boneless pork roast
2 C. apple cider vinegar
1/2 C. ketchup
1/8 C. Worchestershire sauce
1 T. brown sugar, packed
1 T. Dijon mustard
1 T. salt
1 T. dried crushed red peppers (rub them in the palm of your hand to release the oils)
1 tsp. black pepper
1 T. hot sauce


1. Place pork roast in crock pot.

2. Mix all other ingredients together and pour over roast.

3. Cook roast on low for eight to ten (8-10) hours.

4. Remove and pull meat apart with two forks.

5. Return to crock pot, mixing with sauce to keep warm.

6. Serve on buns of your choice.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Recipe - Monkey Bread - So Much Fun! :)

If you have young children or grandchildren, or even young nieces and nephews like I do, you might want to consider making Monkey Bread. This is so much fun to make. The little ones can help, and they'll love eating the results once the bread is baked. In addition, when you bake Monkey Bread, you not only make a sweet treat for the entire family, you make fond, happy memories as well. It's comforting to smell the house filling with the aroma of cinnamon and fun to watch the little ones licking the sticky bread from their fingers, smiling and laughing all the while.

There are many variations of Monkey Bread, and the raisins and nuts in the version we're presenting are optional. If you don't care for raisins and/or nuts, simply leave them out. We're also going to give you a blueberry version, for the berry lovers in your family.

We love this recipe because it isn't grainy like some that use far too much sugar. The flavors, at least in our opinion, are perfectly balanced and blended. The sauce is sticky - though that's exactly the way it should be. Monkey Bread wouldn't be Monkey Bread without a sticky sauce.

Some people love to frost Monkey Bread with cream cheese frosting (it melts right into the bread), but even without, this bread is truly amazing.

Monkey Bread


4 cans refrigerated biscuits
1 C. packed brown sugar
1 1/2 sticks butter (3/4 cup)
1/2 C. white sugar
2 T. cinnamon
1/2 C. raisins (these are optional)


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease a 9-10 inch tube pan.

2. Mix white sugar and cinnamon in a medium sized plastic bag.

3. Cut the biscuits into halves or quarters and place six to eight biscuit pieces in the sugar cinnamon mix. Shake well.

4. Arrange pieces in the bottom of the greased pan. Continue layering until all the biscuit pieces are coated and in the pan. If you are using raisins, place them among the biscuit pieces as you are layering.

5. In a small saucepan, melt the butter with the brown sugar over medium heat. Boil for 1 minute. Pour over the layered biscuits.

6. Bake for 35 minutes. Let bread cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a plate. Pull apart and enjoy!

Cream Cheese Frosting


1/2 pound cream cheese
1/2 pound butter
1 pound powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon juice


1.Allow cream cheese and butter to warm to room temperature.

2. Beat butter and cream cheese together in a large bowl with a mixer.

3. Slowly add in the pound of powdered sugar.

4. After all the powdered sugar is added mix for 12 minutes (do not mix less than that).

5. When almost done, add in the extract and lemon juice.

Blueberry Monkey Bread


1 1/3 C. white sugar, divided into two 2/3 C. measures1
tablespoon ground cinnamon
4 (10 ounce) cans refrigerated buttermilk biscuit dough
1 1/4 C. frozen blueberries, dry pack
10 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 T. ground cinnamon
1 C. frozen blueberries, dry pack


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Thoroughly grease a 10 x 4 inch tube pan.
3. Mix 2/3 C. sugar and cinnamon. Cut biscuits in quarters, then roll each piece in sugar-cinnamon mixture.
4.. Arrange about 1/4 of the biscuit pieces and blueberries in an even layer in pan.
5.. Place blueberries between biscuit pieces, creating a mosaic effect. Repeat three times with remaining biscuits and blueberries, covering blueberries of one layer with biscuits in next layer.
6.. In saucepan combine the second 2/3 C. sugar, butter, vanilla, cinnamon, and the additional C. of blueberries. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Cook, stirring frequently until sugar is dissolved and butter is melted.
7. Pour over biscuits in pan.
8. Bake for 35 minutes or until done. Lift or turn out onto a cake plate.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Recipe - Chicken Breast Stuffed with Goat Cheese, Olives, and Basil

Chicken can be prepared so many different ways. Its mild flavor makes it adaptable to many different culinary treatments. Chicken is popular, in part, because it's low in fat and calories, relatively inexpensive, and widely available.

However, these same qualities can also make chicken a little boring. Sometimes you need to use your imagination when cooking chicken to avoid "dull" and "routine."

In the recipe below, the combination of basil, one of the most flavorful of herbs, with the potency of kalamata olives makes these chicken breasts simply burst with flavor. And the effect of the chicken infused with savory, melting goat cheese is practically irresistible. Cooking the chicken at a lower temperature for a short period of time allows you to remove the breasts while they're remarkably moist and tender.

Chicken Breast Stuffed with Goat Cheese, Olives, and Basil


2 boneless chicken breast halves, skin on
6 ripe kalamata olives, chopped
2 T./30 ml goat cheese or feta
3 fresh basil leaves, shredded
2 T./30 ml butter


1. Chop the olives.

2. Chiffonade the basil (basil, like any other herb, should always be cut, broken, ground, or crushed to release its flavor).

3. Mix the olives, basil, and goat cheese in a small mixing bowl. You can even make this mixture a day ahead and refrigerate it.

4. Pat the chicken dry and season with salt and pepper.

5. Coat the chicken breasts with mayonnaise before cooking. It won't penetrate the chicken breast, but it will help seal in the juices and keep it moist.

6. Slice a pocket in each chicken breast. (To do this, place the chicken breasts, skin side down on a cutting board. Remove the small filet strip that dangles from each breast. Hold the chicken in place by laying one hand flat on the surface on the chicken. Then, holding your utility knife at a 45 degree angle, carefully slice into the chicken breast. Leave about one inch uncut around three sides of the breast. Along the longer side of the breast, make a long, horizontal slice, parallel to the cutting board. Pull the pocket open and trim any connecting tissues.)

7. Stuff each pocket with the olive/basil/cheese mixture. After stuffing, fold the top layer of the chicken breast down to close the pocket and arrange the skin evenly on top.

8. Preheat an oven proof skillet and brown the chicken breasts. (Heat oil in a skillet and when hot, lay each chicken breast, skin side down, in the skillet. Brown for only about five minutes on each side. Flip the breasts only once. Do not flip repeatedly as this will only dry out the chicken.)

9. Place the skillet in the oven at 325 F. and bake, uncovered, for fifteen minutes.

Note - If you don't like the olive/basil/cheese stuffing, there are many others that you can try, and you're limited only by your own imagination. Some of the ones I've tried and liked are:

spinach/cream cheese/nutmeg/ground pepper

pine nuts/garlic/bacon/arugula/basil/parmigiano reggiano

apples/currants/oregano/thyme/feta cheese

wild mushrooms/thyme/rosemary/goat cheese

proscuitto/Monterey Jack/dried fruits/sweet wine


Saturday, April 19, 2008

Almost All About Olives

I've always thought olives, at least for Americans, were an acquired taste. And, I have to admit, they're a taste I've never acquired, however, they can be very healthful, when used properly and can certainly enhance many dishes. Although I don't particular enjoy the taste of olives, I do enjoy cooking with them for those who do.

Olives are tiny, bitter, oily fruits that originated in the Mediterranean region. They grow best in warm, sub-tropical regions. Today, this region is still the prime olive producing region in the world. There are an estimated eight hundred million olive trees in the world, and seven hundred million of them are in the region of the Mediterranean.

The remaining one hundred million trees can be found in the United States, New Zealand, Morocco, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Chile, Brazil, Lebanon, France, Greece, South Africa, Tunisia, Turkey, China, Peru, Mexico, and Australia.

Olive trees grow year round and eventually reach a height of twenty to forty feet/six to twelve meters. Some olive trees are simply magnificent to look at, no matter what you think of their fruit, and they're long-lived, with some said to be more than two thousand years old.

Really, when we get down to basics, there's only one kind of olive. However, differences lie in the curing process and the ripeness of the fruit when picked. Though olives are naturally bitter, this bitterness can be greatly modified by packing them in brine, herbs, chilis, oils, and vinegars.

Some olives turn black when they ripen, but not all do. However, any olive picked before it's ripe will always be green, though not all green olives are underripe. Olives may be pitted or unpitted. Ripe olives are usually made into oil, with one ton of olives needed to produce only fifty gallons/187.5 liters of olive oil.

Each type of olive has its own "personality." It's fun to experiment with them in various snacks, salads, and recipes. I really hope you'll do so.

Alfonsos - Tender, black, soft-skinned olives from Chile, with a salty flavor and a fruity texture similar to that of a plum; cured in wine vinegar.

Gaeta - Dark purple olives from Italy with a tender texture and slightly sour taste.

Garlic - Huge olives from California, stuffed with garlic cloves, of course.

Jalapeno - Green olives from California, stuffed with pickled jalapeno peppers.

Moroccan - Black, bitter olives with a leathery skin, best used in cooking; cured in oil.

Moulin de Daudet - Wonderful olives from the south of France that are either green or black. The green ones have a light, pine taste, while the black have a rich licorice flavor.

Picholine - Small green, crunchy olives from the south of France with a much sweeter flavor than most other olives.

Nicoise - Small, reddish-brown olives that are lightly salted and have a sour taste.

Provencal - Green olives from the south of France, given a special flavor and aroma by being marinated in herbes de Provence instead of brine.

Phoenicia - Garlic flavored green olives from Lebanon, marinated in olive oil and herbs.

Spicy - Usually green olives, cured in a marinade with tomato sauce and chili peppers.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

New Products - Ghirardelli's Four New Chocolate Bars

I love appetizers and entrees more than desserts, but now and then, like most people, a good dessert is really hard to resist.

Also, like most people, I like chocolate. In small doses. It's certainly not something I eat every day, but once a week is just fine.

When I'm in the mood for a chocolate bar, I usually choose Ghirardelli. If you're not familiar with Ghirardelli (and who isn't?), it's a famous San Francisco based maker of fine, premium chocolate products since 1852.

Ghirardelli has just introduced four new filled chocolate bars, and I must say, all of them sound scrumptious. Here they are:

Milk Chocolate with Caramel Filing

Milky mild chocolate filled with buttery caramel describes this new bar. It's my personal favorite because I adore milk chocolate. Ghirardelli recommends you pair this bar with salty and crunchy snacks like almonds, peanuts, or caramel corn. I recommend you enjoy it on its own.

Dark Chocolate with Raspberry Filling

Decadently delicious dark chocolate filled with fruity raspberry filling. Who couldn't love this bar? Ghirardelli suggest you pair it with strawberries, hazelnuts, or vanilla ice-cream.

Dark Chocolate with Caramel Filling

More intense than the milk chocolate bar, Ghirardelli recommends pairing this one with red wine or black tea - as if we have to pair it with anything, it's so delicious on its own.

Dark Chocolate with Mint Filling

Intense, velvety chocolate and cool, refreshing mint work together to enhance each other. And make no mistake - they do. Ghirardelli suggests pairing this exquisite bar with fruit, nuts, or green tea. We suggest you eat it alone and just enjoy.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Cooking Tip - Rehydrating Sun-Dried Tomatoes

If you buy sun-dried tomatoes that are soaked in oil, you won't need to rehydrate them, however when purchased in a dry form, sun-dried tomatoes will keep longer and are far more cost effective. But, they will be too tough to eat and almost without flavor until you rehydrate them.

Rehydrating Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Rehydrating sun-dried tomatoes is easy to do. Just follow the simple steps below.


1. Place sun-dried tomatoes in a glass bowl with 8 oz./225 grams of hot water.

2. Cover with plastic wrap, leaving one side open for venting.

3. Place in microwave on high for one (1) minute.

4. Stir. Replace plastic wrap, again, leaving one side open for venting.

5. Place in microwave at half-power for one (1) minute.

6. Let sun-dried tomatoes soak for five (5) minutes.

7. Drain and pat dry.

How to Make Your Own Sun-Dried Tomatoes

If you have the time and the inclination, you might want to make your own sun-dried tomatoes.


1. Cut Roma (plum) tomatoes in half lengthwise.

2. Lay them skin-side down on a nylon or plastic screen.

3. Place the screen outside in the hot, bright sunshine.

4. Cover the screen with cheesecloth. (Place cups or skewers around the screen to keep the cheesecloth off the tomatoes.)

5. Allow the tomatoes to dry in the sun during the day, but bring them indoors at night. Depending on the weather, they should dry in two to three days.

Sun-dried tomatoes are delicious on sandwiches, in sauces, in so many things. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Recipe - Chocolate or Cinnamon Babka

It's Sunday morning and we like to be lazy in my house, enjoying the sunshine, the birdsong, and of course, a big slice of either chocolate or cinnamon babka.

Do you remember the "Seinfeld" episode in which Elaine wants to buy a chocolate babka, but someone beats her to the last one? Only cinnamon are left, and Elaine considers the cinnamon babka the "inferior" babka. Jerry convinces her otherwise, but she's still not completely happy with it.

As a lover of both chocolate and cinnamon babka, I think it's just personal preference. As long as you do a good job making your babka, it will never be inferior. This is a luscious cake and one that should be savored. I hope you'll try it, and I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I do.

Chocolate or Cinnamon Babka



1-1 1/2 C. water
2 T. yeast
Pinch of sugar
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla
2 drops almond extract
1 tsp. lemon juice
3/4 C. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/3 C. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/3 C. milk powder
1 C. unsalted butter or margarine - softened and cut into small pieces
6 C. unbleached all-purpose flour or half bread flour/half all-purpose

Chocolate Filling:

1-1 1/2 C. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 C. cocoa
1/2 C. sugar
3 T. unsalted butter or margarine

Cinnamon Filling:

1/4 C. unsalted butter or margarine
1 C. dark brown sugar
2 T. corn syrup or maple syrup
2-4 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 C. chopped walnuts (optional)

Egg Wash:

1 egg, beaten
Sugar for sprinkling


1. In a large bowl, mix together water, yeast, and pinch of sugar. Allow to rest for five minutes to allow the yeast to swell.

2. Add eggs, egg yolks, vanilla, almond extract, lemon juice, sugar, salt, and milk powder.

3. Add the softened butter and flour to the mixture by folding it into the batter. Knead with a dough hook or by hand for about 8-10 minutes, until smooth and elastic.

4. Place dough in a well greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap or cover the entire bowl with a plastic bag to ensure that it's thoroughly sealed. Allow to rise for about 45-90 minutes. (You can refrigerate this dough overnight, but you must allow it to return to room temperature before continuing.)

5. Divide dough into two equal parts. Cover with a towel and allow it to rest for 10 minutes.

6. Butter two 9-inch springform cake pans or two loaf pans, or, if making only one large babka, butter a 10-inch bundt pan.

7. Roll dough into a 16x16 inch square on a lightly floured board.

8. Spread the filling of your choice over the entire surface.

9. Roll lengthwise into a large roll, then cut in half.

10. Place both halves in the prepared pan, beside each other (it doesn't matter if they are pressing against each other).

11. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.

12. Place the pan(s) in a plastic bag and let rise until babke is flush or has risen over the top of the pan(s).

13. Repeat with other half of the dough.

14. Preheat over to 350 F.

15. Bake babka for 35-40 minutes (50-70 minutes for the one large babka) until medium brown.

16. Cool for 15 minutes in the pan before putting on a cooling rack.

To make the Chocolate Filling:

Place chocolate chips, cinnamon, cocoa, sugar, and butter in a food processor and grind into a loose paste.

To make the Cinnamon Filling:

Place the butter, sugar, corn syrup, cinnamon, and walnuts in a food processor and grind into a loose paste.

Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy. Even the aroma of this cake is heavenly. :)

Friday, April 4, 2008

Recipe - Chicken Sandwich with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Arugula

At my house, we love watching "Hell's Kitchen." As culinary school graduates, my husband and I always try to decide what we'd serve to Chef Ramsay if we were called upon to serve him, well, anything at all.

If you watch the show, you know that sometimes the contestants have to create a "gourmet" sandwich. Below is the one I'd probably serve. He might like it, he might not, however I love it and that's what counts with me. :)

Chicken Sandwich with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Arugula


Cooking spray
4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 C. chopped and drained oil-packed sun-dried tomato halves
1/4 C. balsamic vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
4 (2-ounce) onion sandwich buns
2 C. trimmed arugula


1. Preheat broiler.

2. Heat a grill pan coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat.

3. Place each chicken breast half between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap, and pound each piece to 1/4-inch thickness using a meat mallet or rolling pin.

4. Sprinkle both sides evenly with 1/8-teaspoon salt and black pepper.

5. Add chicken to pan, and cook 4 minutes on each side or until done.

6. While chicken cooks, combine 1/8 teaspoon salt, tomatoes, vinegar, and garlic, stirring with a whisk.

7. Place buns, cut sides up, on a baking sheet. Broil 1 minute or until lightly toasted.

8. Place 1 chicken breast half on bottom half of each bun.

9. Add arugula to tomato mixture and toss gently to coat.

10. Arrange about 1/2 cup arugula mixture over each chicken breast half. Cover with tops of buns.

4 servings

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Choosing Poultry - Free Range, Natural, or Industrial? That is the Question.

About thirty years ago, poultry was more expensive than even the finest cuts of lamb or beef. Seem impossible? Check it out.

Today, chicken and turkey are only so very, very affordable because of the technological advances in raising them, but not everyone has welcomed these advances or seen them as something good.

Small, private poultry farms, which used to be all there were, now have little to no significance in the marketplace. Instead, professional poultry farms have become the norm, with industrialized and intensive rearing strategies and high-tech breeding that allows them to produce billions of birds each year and lower the price for consumers. However, more often than not, this lowering of cost has been obtained at the price of nutrition and flavor. There are also grave concerns about housing birds of all kinds in crowded pens and cages, as is done on the typical poultry production farm.

Of course, animal rights activists have raised moral and ethical questions, as well they should, but aside from this, there are health and culinary considerations as well.

In so many ways, animals and humans are alike - when under fear and duress, both emit stress hormones into their bloodstream, hormones that can create unhealthy imbalances. In the case of poultry, these stress hormones can affect the meat's tenderness, its flavor, and its nutritional value. In addition, industrialized poultry farms often give their birds antibiotics and other drugs to compensate for the effects of stress, drugs that might not be entirely safe for human consumption.

Here at Culinary Corner Cafe, we always advocate the humane treatment of every living thing, but a discussion of the ethical and moral implications of industrialized poultry farms is beyond the scope of this blog, so here, we'll focus only on the culinary aspects.

If you view poultry farms as we do, you might be tempted to turn to free-range poultry, instead, but this, too, can present complications for the serious cook. Be aware that "free-range" and "organic" have different meanings. The terms aren't interchangeable. When one thinks of "free-range," too often one thinks of breezy pastures and idyllic farmyards, but this isn't always the case.

All fresh meat is considered "natural," according to the US Department of Agriculture. No artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, or chemicals may be added to a product that's labeled "natural." Any "natural" product must also undergo only minimal processing, e.g., cutting or grinding. However, the wording regarding all of this is quite vague.

In order for any poultry shelter to call itself "free-range," the birds must have some access to the outdoors. And that, basically, is the only requirement. There are no stipulations regarding the bird's quality of life, e.g., its treatment, feeding, cages, hours of sunlight, etc., or even whether of not the bird ever actually went outdoors. Just that it had some access.

Making the labeling more restrictive and stringent would have little to no effect as no one checks to see that the requirements are enforced. The US Department of Agriculture relies on the statements of the farmers and accepts them at face value.

The American Humane Association (AHA) has responded to this problem by creating its own label - "free-farmed." In order to make use of this lable, the poultry producer, processor, and hauler must have their claims verified by an independent third party.

The AHA demands that "free-farmed" birds be given clean cages, clean and sufficient food and water, protection from inclement weather, space, and many other considerations that protect both the health and safety of the bird. The AHA also requires that those raising the birds be thoroughly trained in the art of animal husbandry.

You simply can't inspect every poultry farm yourself. So do the next best thing. Ask a lot of questions at the market where you purchase your poultry. Find out exactly what your supplier means by "organic" and "free-range." Finally, make sure the buyer at your market is as concerned with health (both the bird's and yours) and high quality as you are.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Recipe - Fondant a la Orange (Parisian Orange Cake)

A very special birthday is coming up in my family and my husband and I, as culinary school graduates, have been elected to make the birthday cake. We wanted something different from the usual white or chocolate cakes and the "birthday boy," in this case, is inordinately fond of oranges so we decided to make this luscious Parisian orange cake. Yes, it is a very popular cake in Paris. My husband and I first tasted it there and we've never forgotten how wonderful it was. It's a very easy cake to make and it's more festive than one would think, just glancing at the recipe. We're not sure yet how we're going to decorate it, but we'll use some fresh or edible flowers as well as orange slices.

Fondant à l'Orange (Parisian Orange Cake)


3 eggs
3/4 cup (6 oz.) of sugar
2/3 cup (6 oz.) of unsalted butter
1/2 cup (3 oz.) of flour
3 oz of corn starch flour (or fine flour)
2 juiced and zested oranges
1 teaspoon of baking powder
2 tablespoons of orange liqueur (such as Grand Marnier)
1 orange for decorating


1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. In bowl beat eggs.

3. Stir in sugar, flours, melted butter and orange zest.

4. Pour into 9" greased cake pan and bake for 40 minutes at 350 degrees F, or when a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

5. Unmold when still warm and sprinkle with orange juice mixed with Orange Liqueur.

6. Slice an orange thinly for decoration.

Serves 8


Thursday, March 27, 2008

Recipe - French Lamb Stew

I know. I've given those of you who don't care for lamb too many lamb recipes already. I need to move on. And I intend to. But, as I was preparing dinner tonight, I couldn't resist sharing my recipe for an authentic French Lamb Stew. Winter is making its departure. We're all going to be craving much lighter food in the near future, so how about enjoying a wonderful, hearty stew while the weather's still "right" for it? I promise you won't be disappointed.

Navarin d'Agneau, a French Lamb Stew


3 lbs. of boneless lamb for stew cut in about 1" squares
2 onions sliced
2 T. butter
1 T. flour
2 T. tomato paste
2 T. olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4 lbs. potatoes
2 turnips (optional, but advised)
3 bay leaves
2 pinches of thyme
2 pinches of cumin


1. Melt butter into a large sauce pan and brown the pieces of lamb.

2. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Remove the pieces of meat but leave the gravy in the sauce pan.

4. Add the sliced onions to the pan and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes.

5. Sprinkle with the flour, add olive oil and tomato paste.

6. Cook over low heat for 3 minutes, stirring all the time.

7. Put the pieces of lamb back into the sauce pan and add enough water to cover the meat.

8. Add salt, pepper, bay leaves, thyme, and cumin and stir the whole mixture.

9. Bring to a boil over high heat, then simmer for 20 minutes.

10. Cut raw turnips and potatoes into cubes and add them to the sauce pan.

11. Cook covered over medium heat for 35 minutes, stirring occasionally.


Friday, March 21, 2008

Recipe - Roast Lamb Provencal with Mint Gravy

So many great lamb recipes come from Provence, and with good reason. The French are the masters when it comes to preparing lamb. The following is one of my favorites and would make a delicious meat course for any Easter table.

Roast Lamb Provencal with Mint Gravy


1 (6 to 7 pound) leg of lamb
Salt and pepper
Rosemary (preferably fresh)
Dry white wine
Bunch of fresh mint
5 T. granulated sugar
Cider vinegar

Note - The Mint Sauce should be made in advance of baking the lamb. Be sure to read the instructions thoroughly before beginning.


Mint Sauce

1. Remove all leaves and the tender tips of the stems from a bunch of fresh mint.

2. Chop them very fine.

3. Place in a deep bowl and add 5 rounded tablespoons of sugar.

4. Cover this completely with cider vinegar.

5. Stir well and cover.

6. Let stand about 6 hours, stirring every hour.

Roast Lamb

1. Insert a number of slivers of garlic into the lamb so they are distributed throughout the meat.

2. Sprinkle the top of the leg of lamb with flour, salt, and pepper, and rosemary.

3. Place lamb in a roaster.

4. Pour 1 C. dry white wine and 1 C. water in the covered roaster.

5. Place in a 500 degree F. oven.

6. Bake for 1/2 hour (30 minutes) until lamb begins to brown and a crust begins to form on top.

7. Baste.

8. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F. and let the lamb bake for 2 hours, basting about each half hour.

9. After 2 hours, skim off the grease and cook another half hour.

10. Add equal portions of water and wine as needed.

11. At the end of the cooking time, remove lamb to a hot platter. If juices have concentrated too much add a little more wine.

12. Make a flour and water paste.

13. In a separate saucepan put 3 tablespoons of flour and a couple of pinches of salt.

14. Begin mixing this well with dripping cold water.

15. Keep whipping constantly as the water is added, until it has a creamy consistency.

16. Stir the paste flour slowly, into the juices of the roasting pan, until the juices have thickened.

17. The gravy should be thicker than the average gravy as the Mint Sauce to be added will thin it.

18. When gravy is smooth, add Mint Sauce and stir thoroughly.

Enjoy your Easter dinner.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Recipe - Carre d'Agneau au Romarin (Rack Of Lamb With Rosemary)

Easter is rapidly approaching, and while many of you like ham or roasts, my family and I prefer lamb. We didn't always. My brothers and sister and I grew up eating and loving a very different type of Easter dinner because that was traditional in our parents' families. However, my marriage introduced me to the wonderful taste of lamb and I haven't turned back.

Rosemary is a wonderful herb to pair with lamb. I hope you'll try the recipe below, or the lamb recipe I post later in the week, and let me know how well you enjoyed Easter with lamb as your main dish.

Carre d'Agneau au Romarin (Rack Of Lamb With Rosemary)


2 (2 pound) racks of lamb
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 T. rosemary leaves
1 T. olive oil
1 T. butter
1 T. chopped parsley


1. Using a sharp knife, cut away the top layer of fat.

2. Sprinkle the lamb all over with salt and pepper.

3. Crush the rosemary a little and rub it all over the lamb.

4. Sprinkle the lamb all over with the olive oil.

5. Heat the broiler to high. Place the lamb fat side down on a rack. Place under the broiler so that the ribs are about 4 inches from the source of heat.

6. Cook 5 minutes. Turn the lamb fat side up and return to the broiler once more and broil 5 minutes.

7. Turn oven off and leave door open.

8. Let meat stand 5 minutes before serving.

9. Before serving, rub lamb with butter and sprinkle with parsley.

Serves 4 to 6 people.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Recipe - Herb Crusted Salmon With Sun Dried Tomato Sauce

Since our previous few posts discussed herbs, we thought it would be a good idea to offer a recipe utilizing fresh herbs. Salmon is one of the best things you can eat. It's a fatty fish, high is omega-3 oils that protect the heart, and if you eat wild salmon, as opposed to farm-raised salmon, you'll avoid many of the problems some people find with this wonderful and healthy fish.

Herb Crusted Salmon with Sun Dried Tomato Sauce


4 teaspoons olive oil
2 T. shallots, minced
1 T. lemon juice, strained
1/2 C. dry white wine
6 sun-dried tomatoes (not packed in oil) finely minced
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 T. fresh basil, minced
1 T. fresh thyme, minced
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary leaves, minced
1/2 C. dry bread crumbs
2 (12-ounce) skinless salmon fillets


1. In a 10-inch nonstick skillet, heat 2 teaspoons of oil over medium heat.

2. Add shallots and saute, stirring constantly, until lightly golden, about 1 minute.

3. Add lemon juice, wine, and sun-dried tomatoes. Turn heat to medium-high and cook until sauce is reduced to 1/2 cup, about 2 minutes.

4. Season with salt and pepper and set aside. (Sauce can be made up to 1 hour before cooking fish. Reheat over low heat just before removing fish from oven.)

5. Adjust oven rack to center of oven and preheat to 400 degrees F.

6. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 x 2-inch ovenproof casserole with cooking spray; set aside.

7. On a piece of waxed paper, combine basil, thyme, rosemary, and bread crumbs.

8. Dredge each fillet in bread crumb mixture, coating well.

9. Transfer fillets to prepared pan and place 2 inches apart.

10. Drizzle with remaining 2 teaspoons of oil.

11. Bake in a preheated oven just until fish is opaque and barely flakes when tested in the center with a knife, about 8 to 10 minutes.

12. Transfer to serving platter, slice each fillet in half crosswise, spoon sauce over fillets, and serve.

Yield: 4 servings

Monday, March 10, 2008

Complimentary Herbs

Your own creativity should lead you to discover which herb compliments which dish. You might discover that an herb you used in a fish dish last week tastes even more fantastic in the pork dish you've created tonight.

Exciting and creative ways to use herbs are something to look forward to, but until you're a more experienced cook, or until you gain the necessary confidence to begin experimenting, the following is a list of the more traditional ways to use fresh herbs. Don't be limited by this list, however. Invent. Create. Let your imagination take over. The possibilities are endless and the results may surprise you, hopefully in only pleasant ways.

Beef and Veal: Basil, bay leaf, coriander, cumin, marjoram, mint, sage, tarragon, thyme.

Lamb: Mint, basil, bay leaf, caraway seeds, cumin, lemon balm, rosemary, sage, thyme.

Pork: Anise, bergamot, chervil, cumin, mint, marjoram, rosemary, sage, tarragon, thyme.

Poultry: Basil, bay leaf, caraway, cumin, dill, marjoram, mint, rosemary, tarragon, sage, thyme.

Fish and Shellfish: Basil, chives, dill, lemon balm, marigold, mint, rosemary, sage, tarragon.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Recipe - Zabaglione

In keeping with our latest blogs regarding Olive Garden and Italian food, we're publishing one of our very favorite desserts of all time - zabaglione. It's sometimes offered at Olive Garden and it's Italian to its core. It's also quite fattening, so, even though it's hard, I recommend limiting your intake of this wonderful confection to once or twice a month.



6 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup Marsala wine
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
ground cinnamon
vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups heavy cream, whipped
strawberries, raspberries, or biscotti


1. Place egg yolks, and sugar in a large, round-bottomed stainless steel bowl. Add grated lemon peel and a pinch of cinnamon and a drop of vanilla extract to the yolk mixture. Pour in the Marsala wine. You can use sweet Vermouth as a substitute for the Marsala.

2. Half-fill a pot with water, bring the water to a simmer and reduce the heat to low. Set the pan or bowl containing the custard mixture over the water; the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water. Whisk the custard mixture, making sure that the water does not boil. This ensures that a gentle, even heat thickens the mixture without curdling it. Whisking traps air in the yolks for a light, fluffy mixture.

3. Continue whisking for about 10 minutes, until the mixture triples in volume, froths up and becomes pale. When it reaches the desired consistency, take the container of custard out of the pot. Slightly thickened, the custard can be used as a sauce. Longer cooking will thicken the custard further, giving it the texture of mousse. Continue whisking for a minute or two to prevent the custard from sticking to its container.

4. Serve the custard while still warm, or, if you want to serve it cool, set it aside for about 15 minutes. Whisk heavy cream until it forms soft peaks; add the whipped cream to the cooled custard and use a whisk to gently fold them together. Reserve some of the whipped cream to serve on top.

5. Ladle the zabaglione into individual dishes. Serve with whipped cream, berries, and/or cookies such as biscotti.

Serves 6

Monday, March 3, 2008

Recipe - Olive Garden's Zuppa Toscana

Olive Garden offers its patrons three kinds of traditional Italian soups - Pasta e Fagioli (Pasta and Beans), Classic Minestrone, and Zuppa Toscana. While I like all three soups, I'm especially fond of the Zuppa Toscana. Anyone who says "Zuppa Toscana" isn't Tuscan, obviously doesn't know Tuscan food. It's about as Tuscan as you can get. Below is a recipe that duplicates it well as it was taken directly from Olive Garden's own cookbook. I hope you enjoy this as much as I do. Pair it with a salad and a loaf of crusty bread and you'll have a nutritious and filling meal.

Olive Garden's Zuppa Toscana


1 lb ground Italian sausage
1 ½ tsp. crushed red peppers
1 large diced white onion
4 T. bacon pieces
2 tsp. garlic puree
10 C. water
5 cubes of chicken bouillon
1 C. heavy cream
1 lb. sliced Russet potatoes, about 3 large potatoes
¼ of a bunch of fresh kale


1. Saute Italian sausage and crushed red pepper in pot.

2. Drain excess fat, refrigerate while you prepare other ingredients.

3. In the same pan, saute bacon, onions and garlic for approxiamtly 15 mins. or until the onions are soft.

4. Mix together the chicken bouillon and water, then add it to the onions, bacon and garlic. Cook until boiling.

5. Add potatoes and cook until soft, about half an hour.

6. Add heavy cream and cook until thoughouly heated.

7. Stir in the sausage.

8. Add kale just before serving.

This is really delicious!

Buon appetito!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Olive Garden - The Whole Truth and Nothing But

I've worked at Olive Garden and so has my husband. What I can't understand is why in the heck Olive Garden, which is an extremely good chain restaurant, is getting so much flack lately. I feel it's time to set the record straight.

First, Olive Garden doesn't pressure any of its servers to sell alcohol. Sure, they like alcohol sales. Tell me one restaurant, chain or otherwise, who doesn't. There's a huge markup on alcohol. Heck, if I were running a restaurant, I'd want people to buy a drink or two as well. But pressure on the servers to sell alcohol? No, no way. Being threatened with the loss of your job if you don't meet an "alcohol sales quota?" That's one of the biggest "urban legends" I've ever heard. It honestly makes me laugh out loud.

Now, on to the accusation that Olive Garden sells "fake" Italian food. Yes, in a way, it does, but its patrons are happy about this fact. I used to live in Italy, in Tuscany, too, so I know what I'm talking about. The food there was very, very bland. Blah. Olive Garden's food isn't so much "fake" Italian and Italian "dressed up." Be glad of it. I have to admit, I find the salmon a little dry, there aren't enough mashed potatoes with the wonderful Stuffed Chicken Marsala, and the salad and breadsticks could be better, but on the whole, the dishes are tasty and filling, without being "too" heavy and they're very creative.

I've read allegations that Olive Garden isn't clean. Okay, this is yet another untruth. Olive Garden has got to be one of the cleanest restaurants I've ever been in. Food temperatures, both hot and cold, are monitored constantly and the wait staff has to wash their hands every hour. No, they aren't threatened with the loss of their jobs if they don't sell enough alcohol, but they will lose their jobs if they aren't super clean.

And what's this I read on a well-known Website about Olive Garden's Zuppa Toscana not being authentic Italian? LOL This is one of the restaurants most authentic dishes. The person who said that obviously hasn't spent much time around Italian food and none at all in Italy, itself. In addition to being authentic, Zuppa Toscana is both delicious and filling, especially on a cold winter's day.

I've heard complaints about the long wait at Olive Garden. Well, if you have to endure a long wait, you have only yourself to blame. While Olive Garden doesn't accept reservations, they do have "call ahead seating." Just call them and tell them what time you'll arrive and they'll put your name on the seating list and your wait, if any, will be greatly shortened.

I've even read the preposterous lie that the wait at Olive Garden is deliberate. LOL No, not true. Olive Garden, in case anyone hasn't noticed, is a "for profit" business. They want to get people in and out (though you can linger as long as you like) and make as much money as possible. Sure, some servers turn their tables faster than others. Some servers even set up their own tables and don't wait on the bus boys to do it. Other servers are lazy. One woman, without knowing both my husband and I have worked at Olive Garden, told me the table rotation was actually designed to make patrons wait. No, not true. When a server gets his or her table ready for the next patrons, he tells the host, who proceeds to seat the next people in line. It's as simple as that.

Olive Garden isn't fine dining. It isn't haute cuisine. But then, it never pretends to be. It's a family restaurant, a place where you can take your kids or enjoy Sunday dinner with all your relatives. The prices are great and most of the dishes are, too. The Olive Garden where I eat at least once every week employs more than fifty servers, so some are naturally going to be faster and more personable than others, but on the whole, this is a great restaurant with good food and a relaxing atmosphere.

Bottom line: All the bad talk about Olive Garden lately is totally undeserved. Spring and summer are coming and Olive Garden will be packed with people just waiting for Fettuccini Alfredo, Stuffed Chicken Marsala, Zuppa Toscana, Seafood Portofino, and more. The lines will be spilling out onto the sidewalk. Can one hundred million people be wrong? Of course not. But some people just like to grouse and it seems they always will. I almost feel sorry for them.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Recipe - Oscar Party Time! Chicken Roulade

My husband and I are both culinary school graduates - he graduated from a culinary school in France, I graduated from a culinary school in the eastern US.

Since we both love food and cooking, we both love movies, and we both love getting together with our friends, we host an annual "Oscar Party." This party gives us both a chance to show off our culinary skills besides having a really good time. We ask our guests to fill out an Oscar ballot and make one choice each in all twenty-four categories. The person who wins gets a seven course dinner catered!

We have many dishes at our "Oscar Party," and this year I wanted to share one with you. It's a tasty chicken dish that's very different and very festive, but still, very easy to make, though the prepartion time is well over one hour. However, this dish is worth it.

Chicken Roulade with Prosciutto, Spinach, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes


6, 6 oz. boneless chicken breasts (skin on)
Ground black pepper
6 slices prosciutto
18 leaves fresh spinich
24 pieces sun-dried tomato
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1/4 C. good red wine
2 C. beef stock
¼ C. tomato puree
1 C. demi-glace (Brown Sauce)
3 to 6 eggs, as needed
1 to 2 C. Half-and-Half, as needed
2 C. flour, as needed
2 C. Italian flavored breadcrumbs
1 L. canola Oil
4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1/2 bunch chives
4 T. unsalted butter, plus 1 T. for the potatoes
1 teaspoon chopped, fresh thyme leaves
2 T. white truffle oil, to taste


1. Lay a long piece of plastic wrap over your cutting board and tuck it underneath the sides of the board. (Covering the chicken with the plastic will also keep the mess down when you pound with the meat mallet.)

2. Place the chicken breasts on the covered cutting board, skin side down, with enough space between them so they can lay flat after you "butterfly" them. To make the butterfly cut, carefully slice open (without slicing the chicken all the way through) and spread the flesh of the chicken out so you will be able to pound it out into a single thin piece.

3. After pounding, place stuffing and then roll up.

4. Season the breasts with salt and pepper.

5. Place another length of plastic wrap over the seasoned chicken breasts and flatten with meat mallet to integrate the seasoning into the chicken. Pound chicken thin.

6. Lay 1 slice of prosciutto ham on each breast.

7. Add 3 leaves of spinach and 4 pieces of sun-dried tomatoes to each breast.

8. Fold in each end and roll tightly. Place on sheet tray and freeze until firm. (They do not have to be frozen completely hard, but this makes it easier to handle when breading.)

9. Preheat a deep-fryer to 350 F. Also, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

10. While the chicken roulade is hardening in the freezer, prepare the tomato demi-glace. In a saucepan, saute garlic and then deglaze the pan with the wine.

11. Add stock and tomato puree.

12. Boil over medium heat until reduced by half. Add the demi-glace (brown sauce) and let simmer until thickened ("medium thickness").

13. When the chicken is firm, set up a breading station.

14. Whisk together 3 eggs and 1 cup of the half-and-half for the egg wash. (Begin with this amount and whisk more together if needed.)

15. Set up a bowl each of: flour, then egg wash, and then Italian breadcrumbs.

16. Evenly coat rolled frozen chicken with flour (not too much or breadcrumbs won't stick).

17. Dip floured rolled chicken into egg wash, then into breadcrumbs.

18. In a deep-fat fryer, lightly fry until golden brown.

19. Finish in the oven for 15 minutes until completely cooked through. Remove from oven and let rest.

20. Boil the potatoes until tender.

21. Mash the potatoes and whip chopped chives, butter, salt, and freshly ground pepper into the potatoes with a beater.

22. Reheat the tomato demi-glace and to finish remove from heat, and immediately whisk in fresh thyme and 1 tablespoon butter.

23. Slice each chicken roll to expose the stuffed interior.

24. Place mashed potatoes in center of each plate, drizzle white truffle oil over the potatoes.

25. Lay chicken roulade over potatoes. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Three Tips For Perfect Sauteing

The term, sauteing, has been applied to various cooking methods and it will continue to be applied to various cooking methods, however sauteing really refers to browning food quickly in a little cooking fat. It's a very convenient cooking method and one that's used most often with vegetables.

There are three very important things to remember when sauteing, so your food turns out perfectly:

1. The fat must be very hot before the food is added. If the fat's hot enough, it will sear the skin of the vegetables as soon as it touches them. If not, the vegetables will absorb the fat, making them greasy, and in some cases, downright inedible.

2. The pan must be large enough. When cooks try to cram too much into one pan, they end up stewing the food, rather than sauteing it. Stewed vegetables are definitely not what you want when you set out to saute.

3. The food must be dry. Even foods that have been marinated must be dried before putting them into the hot fat in the pan for sauteing. If they aren't dried, the liquid on the food will cause the food to stew rather than saute. If you want to create a glaze, and this is a nice effect at times, you add liquid - honey, brown sugar, molasses, etc. - to the vegetables after they're in the pan.

When a simmering layer of oil is added to the saute pan, the cooking technique changes from sauteing to pan frying. As the bubbling fat surrounds the frying vegetables with heat, they can be coated with an egg mixture, corn meal, or various batters.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Recipe - Quail Wrapped in Pancetta with Raspberries and Thyme

My husband and I hosted a lavish New Year's Eve dinner party and we wanted the entree to be something very different - not filet mignon, not chicken, not even a lavish fish dish. We decided on oven roasted quail wrapped in pancetta and stuffed with raspberries and thyme. Our guests loved it and were so surprised to be treated to something very different. The mashed celeriac we served with it was also a great change of pace from rice or potatoes. A salad of radicchio or leaf chicory would be perfect with this recipe. The bitterness of the greens offsets the sweetness of the raspberries and the delicacy of the quail. Quail are not used enough in the US. They're festive, inexpensive, cook quickly, and can be served is so many different ways.

Quail Wrapped in Pancetta with Raspberries and Thyme


4 oven-ready quail
20 grams salted butter (soft)
20 grams unsalted butter (soft)
Freshly ground pepper
1 T. fresh thyme leaves
12 raspberries (plus extra to decorate)
20 - 24 thin slices pancetta
4 cloves garlic
4 sprigs thyme


1. Combine the butter with the thyme leaves and pepper and divide into 4 equal sized portions.

2. Carefully lift the skin off the quail breasts (and thighs, if you're very skilful), then stuff the butter underneath and spread evenly by massaging the butter in gently from the outside, pushing it as far down as you can.

3. Stuff the cavities with 3 rasperries, 1 clove garlic and a sprig of thyme each, then wrap the quail tightly with the pancetta.

4. Place the quail in an oven proof dish and place in a preheated oven (400 F.).

5. Roast for 30 - 40 minutes or until the legs wiggle easily in the sockets.

6. Let rest for about 10 minutes, then serve with celeriac mash (cook peeled and diced celeriac in salted water with a squeeze of lemon until very soft, mash, and mix in some butter), and mixed, steamed vegetables of your choice.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day!

I hope you all made something delicious for your sweetie this Valentine's Day, whether it be simply heart-shaped sugar cookies, chocolate truffles, or a full course gourmet meal.

I've been busy cooking for the loved ones in my life, so Culinary Corner Cafe will post more cooking tips, recipes, and culinary history tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Recipe - Swiss Fondue

While I was living and traveling in Europe, one of the best things I ate was fondue in tiny-but-beautiful Switzerland. Thanks to "The Melting Pot," I can now go out and enjoy many kinds of fondue any time I want, however, there are many times I want to make fondue at home. It's terrific for wintertime parties or just an intimate dinner for two. Besides it's wonderful and unique taste, fondue produces a feeling of warmth and contentment and an "all's right with the world" mind set, even if just for an hour or two.

The following recipe is for Fondue Neuchateloise. Enjoy it before warm weather arrives (and despite the snow in the Northeast and Eastern seaboard, spring is just around the corner).

Swiss Fondue (Fondue Neuchateloise)


2 1/2 fl. dry white wine
Clove garlic
5 1/2 oz. Emmental and Gruyere cheese (grated and mixed - half and half)
1 t Cornstarch
1/2 fl. Kirsch (this is the legendary Swiss cherry "firewater." It is quite dry. Don't use cherry brandy, which is quite sweet, instead. The best kirsch is Dettling, from Switzerland, but you can find good quality kirsch in any fully stocked liquor store. And fondue is safe for children and people taking medication as all the alcohol burns off.)
Shake of pepper
Ground fresh nutmeg
6 oz. crusty white bread, cubed

Note: The measurements above are "per person." Multiply each by the number of guests you expect to serve.


In Switzerland, fondue is always prepared in a "caquelon," which is an earthenware dish, glazed inside, with a handle, however an enamelled saucepan can be used, or even a not-too-shallow fireproof dish. Just follow the directions below:

1. Rub the inside of the pan with half a cut clove of garlic, and let it dry until the rubbed places feel tacky.

2. Put the wine in the dish and bring it to a boil.

3. Slowly start adding cheese to the boiling wine, and stir constantly until each bit is dissolved, then add more.

4. When all the cheese is in, stir the kirsch into the cornstarch well, then add the mixture to the cheese and keep stirring over the heat until the mixture comes to a boil again.

5. Add freshly ground pepper and nutmeg to taste.

6. Remove the dish to on top of a small live flame (Sterno or alcohol burner) and keep it bubbling slowly. (Some people do use electric fondue pots.)

7. Bread should have been cubed - about 1-inch cubes - for spearing with fondue forks and stirring around in the cheese. A crusty bread, like French or Italian, needs to be used.

Fondue Lore

The old custom is that if you accidentally lose the bread into the cheese from the end of your fork, if you're male, you have to buy a round of drinks for the table; if you're female, you have to kiss everyone.

Do not drink water with fondue - it reacts badly in your stomach with the cheese and bread. Dry white wine or tea are the usual accompaniments.

The "coupe d'midi," or "shot in the middle," is taken when you get full before you're "really" done, and consists of a thimbleful of kirsch, knocked straight back in the middle of the meal. This usually magically produces more room if you're feeling too full. Don't ask how this works, just accept the fact that it just does.

The crusty bit that forms at the bottom of the pot as the cheese keeps cooking is called the "crouton," and is very nice peeled off and divided among the guests as a sort of farewell to the fondue - but only for now.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Recipe - Split Pea Soup

Winter seems to be heaving one last, big gasp in many parts of the country, one of them being where I live. Even though we know spring is just around the corner, on cold days like today, one of the things I love most is a wonderful bowl or two of soup. A big plus is that most soups are quite healthy as well as delicious. The low fat, high fiber spilt pea soup presented below is both warming and filling. Pair it with some crusty homemade whole grain bread and I can't think of a better way to welcome your loved ones home from school or work, or just to treat yourself.

Split Pea Soup


1 T. canola oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 onion, finely chopped
1 large carrot, diced
1 stick of celery, chopped
1 small russet potato, peeled and cut into pieces
4 Cups fat-free, low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
2 Cups of water
1 1/2 Cups dried split green peas, picked through and rinsed
Freshly ground black pepper


1. Heat oil in a large pot.

2. Sauté garlic, onions, carrots and celery for 3-4 minutes, until softened.

3. Add potatoes, broth, water and dried split peas. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 45 minutes.

4. Allow soup to cool a little. Transfer to a blender and blend until smooth.

5. Season to taste.

Serves 6

I've now presented three soups that are wonderful for wintertime dining and extremely healty as well. I hope you'll try at least one of them and let me know what you think.

Bon Appetit!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Recipe - Walnut and Spinich Polenta with Roast Tomatoes

This recipe "dresses up" polenta a little and with it's bright yellow, green, and red colors it looks very festive as well. It's a great recipe to enjoy on a cold winter's day as it's quite filling, but still very healthy. All of the ingredients provide us with essential nutrients and the walnuts, spinich, and roast tomatoes are especially good.

Walnut and Spinich Polenta with Roast Tomatoes


8 medium tomatoes
500 grams polenta, shaped and cooled
125 grams (4oz) plain flour
2 T. olive oil
400 grams spinach
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 chilli, chopped
125 grams walnuts


1. Heat oven to 350° F.

2. Cut the tomatoes in half.

3. Lightly oil a baking sheet and place the tomatoes on it.

4. Bake tomatoes in the oven for 25 minutes.

5. Cut the polenta into 16 slices, brush with oil, and place on a baking sheet in the top of the oven for 15 minutes.

6. Heat 1 T. of olive oil in a large pan and lightly cook the spinich for 2 minutes.

7. Add the crushed garlic, chopped chili, and the walnuts.

8. Mix thoroughly and cook for 1 minute more.

9. Divide the spinich mix between four plates, top with the polenta slices and roast tomates, season to taste, drizzle with a little olive oil and serve with fresh, crusty bread.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Polenta and Grits - What's the Difference?

Well, let's start out with what's not the difference - they're both corn.

Polenta is typically made from coarsely groung yellow corn meal. It's boiled very slowly until the cook has what many call "corn meal 'mush'." After cooked polenta has cooled and hardened, it can be sliced, sauteed, or grilled.

In many parts of Mexico, and especially in northern Italy, polenta is a beloved dish that's served daily, often topped with meat, fish, pasta sauce, cheese (this is true especially in Mexico), or vegetables. Many Italians love their polenta torta, a layered dish that's limited only by the imgination of the cook and is reminiscent of lasagna.

Polenta can be combined with many different ingredients, so the final product can be either sweet or savory.

Grits, served most often in the American South, are "coarsely ground pieces of dried corn moistened into a mealy paste." According to NPR, their role in Southern culinary culture is almost mythic.

Historians believe that grits provided food for the first English settlers in Jamestown, Virginia, and later helped many Southerners survive the deprivations of the Great Depression.

There is a difference between corn grits, which include both the hull and the germ of the grain, and "true" hominy grits.

In order to make hominy, one starts (no, not with a can), but with field corn. The dried corn kernels are soaked in a solution of baking soda, lime, or wood ash (also known as "lye water") for one to two days. When the kernel's shell falls off, the kernel absorbs the water and swells to more than twice its size (ouch!). The kernels are then rinsed several times, dried, then finally ground into grits. The grind can be coarse, medium, or fine.

It is, in fact, this alkaline soaking process, which also adds to the nutritional value of the food, that differentiates grits from polenta.

The same soaking process is used to make masa harina, which is the key ingredient in corn tortillas. Due to their altered chemistry because of the soaking, both grits and tortillas helps to prevent pellagra, a disease caused by niacin deficiency.

Corn is beloved in so many cultures, but often, when someone says "polenta" or "grits," people not from those cultures turn their noses up or think of something that's perhaps way too "down home" for them. This really isn't true. Both polenta and grits can be contributors to very sophisticated dishes when used by a creative and imaginative cook.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Recipe - Ethiopian Honey Yeast Bread

Ethiopia is well known as the home of the hottest, spiciest cuisine in the world, however this bread is a lovely, sweet bread that's just perfect with morning or afternoon coffee or tea. In fact, it's perfect anytime.

We've tested several recipes for Ethiopian Honey Yeast Bread and this one is our all time favorite. We hope you'll love it as much as we do.

Ethiopian Honey Yeast Bread


1 (1 T.) package active dry yeast
1/4 Cup water, lukewarm (110 to 115 degrees F.)
1 egg
1/3 Cup honey (the highest quality available to you)
1 T. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. salt
1 Cup whole (don't skimp, use whole) milk, lukewarm
6 T. unsalted butter, melted
4 to 5 Cups all purpose flour (if you want a healthier bread, make 1/3 of the flour whole wheat)


1. In a small bowl, sprinkle yeast over the warm water. Let stand for 3 minutes, then stir to dissolve. Set the bowl in a warm place for about 5 minutes; mixture should double in volume. If it doesn't, repeat procedure.

2. Combine egg, honey, coriander, cinnamon, cloves, and salt in a deep bowl, mixing until smooth. Add the yeast mixture, milk, and 5 tablespoons of the melted butter. Beat until well blended. Stir in flour 1/2 cup at a time, until becomes too stiff to stir.

3. On a lightly floured board, knead the dough, adding a small amount of flour when necessary to keep from sticking. Knead for about 5 minutes. Place dough in a large, greased bowl. cover with a damp cloth and let sit in warm place for about 1 1/2 hours.

4. Grease a baking sheet with the remaining tablespoon of butter. Knead the dough again for only a few minutes. Shape the dough into a round and place it on the greased sheet. Preheat the oven to 325*F.

5. Let the bread rise again while oven is preheating.

6. Bake the bread for 1 hour, or until the top is crusty and a light golden brown.

Serve with coffee or tea and enjoy! This is such a delicious recipe. We feel once you try it, it'll become one of your favorites.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Sourdough Lore

The oldest method of processing food, except for fire, of course, is wild yeast. In fact, the Mesopotamians first used yeast to brew beer as long ago as 6000 B.C. However, it wasn't until three thousand years later, when the Egyptians experimented with cooking methods, that someone figured out that yeast could be used to make bread rise.

The ancient Greeks and Romans, being a bit more flamboyant, at least as far as bread is concerned, embellished on Egyptian bread "recipes" and added olives, various fruits, seeds, and herbs to their own concoctions, thus coming up with something more elaborate.

We do know that the development of sourdough bread came much, much later. What isn't known, however, is if the invention of this very tasty bread came about because someone was an inspired chef who decided to use old, souring dough from a previous loaf of bread to create something new and different, or whether the creator or the sourdough bread many of us love so much was just a very lazy cook. Whichever, we owe him, or her, a debt of gratitude. (Although I'd love to believe the "inventor" was an inspired chef, I'm betting it was a very lazy cook or a cook who sadly, at the time, at least, had far too little with which to work.)

The first recorded instance of the use of sourdough bread occurred when the ships of the Spanish Armada arrived in the US with a sourdough starter pot. From that time on, there was no looking back.

California's gold rush played a part in making San Francisco the "home" of sourdough bread in the US when the Boudin family, master bakers from France, arrived in the area. Intrigued by the taste and uniqueness of sourdough, they established a bakery and their bread soon became famous, especially with the miners who crowded their shop every morning. This bakery, which is still famous in San Francisco, has been using the same "Mother dough" starter since 1849. The recipe was almost destroyed in the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, however Louise Boudin, recognizing its importance to her family, risked her own life to save it

Bread is one of life's staples. If you want to be taken seriously as a cook, especially a gourmet cook, you'll master the art of bread making. And if you want to include one of the tastiest and best loved of all the various breads, you'll master the art of making sourdough.

Good luck!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Recipe - Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup

It was relatively warm (50s) and quite sunny here yesterday, but today, though still warm, is very rainy, so feels chillier than it really is. Tonight, however, winter is going to make a return.

I thought this would be a good time to offer yet another great wintertime soup recipe. Those who like winter squash should like the previously posted recipe, but if you're looing for something just a bit sweeter, but still very healthy (eat as many of those deep orange vegetables as you can), this Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup should fill the bill quite nicely. It's naturally sweet, but has some spiciness due to the addition of curry powder and cumin. Enjoy it with whole grain bread or whole grain crackers.

Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup


2 tsp. olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 tsp. cumin
2 T. curry powder
1 pound bag of baby carrots
1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
3 1/2 cups fat-free, low sodium chicken or vegetable broth


1. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven and saute onion until softened.

2. Stir in cumin and curry powder and cook for 1 minute.

3. Add carrots, sweet potatoes and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.

4. When cool, transfer vegetables to a blender and blend until smooth, working in batches.

5. Return to Dutch oven to reheat.

Serves 6

Friday, January 25, 2008

Herb Substitutions

Almost every cook has occasionally found himself or herself out of an herb he or she needs right away. If you're ever caught in this jam, you can, in some cases, substitute one herb for another. Below are some of the best/most common substitutions:

Savory can be used in place of thyme.

Marjoram can be substituted for oregano.

Cilantro can stand in for parsley.

Chervil can replace tarragon.

Anise seeds are a good replacement for fennel.

Nasturtiums can replace capers.

Hope this helps! :)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Recipe - Slashed Sea Bass Stuffed With Herbs

After writing a little about choosing and storing herbs, I felt a recipe making use of fresh herbs was in order and one of the best is the sea bass recipe below. I hope you'll try it, enjoy it, and let me know how you liked it. Try it with a whole fish when you really want to impress. Enjoy!

Slashed Sea Bass Stuffed With Herbs


6 individual (175-200g) sea bass fillets, or1 sea bass, scaled and cleaned, 3.2 to 3.5 kg.
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 T. fresh marjoram
2 T. fresh basil or mint
2 T. fresh green herb fennel or dill, roughly chopped
3 lemons
100 ml. extra virgin olive oil


1. Preheat the grill or griddle; it must be very hot and clean.

2. Slash the skin side of the fillets by making 1 cm. deep slashes at 6 cm. intervals. Make slashes across the width of the whole sea bass in the same way.

3. Season the fish with salt and pepper.

4. Mix the herbs together, then push as much of this mixture into the slashes as you can, reserving the remainder.

5. Grill the fillets, skin side down first, until done to your liking. Alternatively, place the whole fish carefully on the preheated grill and do not turn over until it is completely sealed - when the fish comes away from the grill easily. When the fish is sealed on both sides, reduce the heat and continue grilling until the fish is done, or cooked to your liking.

6. Mix the juice of 1 of the lemons with the olive oil, and pour over the grilled fish, then scatter remaining herbs over. Serve with lemon wedges.

Yield: 6 servings.

Note: You can use individual fillets for this recipe or a whole fish which looks splendid brought to table just as it is.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A Word or Two About Herbs

One of the marks of a truly great gourmet cook is knowing how to use herbs well. Herbs can enhance almost every dish we create, but most people just don't use them properly.

Dried herbs are readily available on almost any grocer's shelves. Like most gourmet cooks, I keep a complete stock of dried herbs in my cupboard. In fact, I often dry my own. There's nothing wrong with using dried herbs when fresh aren't available and they can be a real boon to a cook who's in a hurry.

However, drying greatly diminishes the potency of herbs. And, although the flavor will be similiar, dried herbs just can't compare to fresh.

When buying fresh herbs at the grocer, remove them from the plastic bag or other container they came in as soon as you arrive home. If you don't, they'll wilt and deteriorate very quickly - in as little as one day or less.

You can greatly extend the life of fresh herbs by standing them in a bowl of water and covering them very loosely with plastic. Be aware that you'll have to change the water every few days, though. By doing this, you can keep fresh herbs in your refrigerator for up to a week before having to discard the unused portions.

An alternative is to wet a few inches of a paper towel and wrap it loosely around your bunch of herbs, then store them in a plastic baggie in your refrigerator's vegetable drawer.

Of course, the best way to obtain the very freshest herbs is to cut them from your own garden right before use. Herb gardens don't take up much room and don't require a lot of care and the luxury and joy of being able to step outside and snip a bunch of rosemary, thyme, parsley, basil, or dill anytime you need it is certainly worth the time you spend caring for the garden. If you live in an apartment and just don't have any space available outside, consider growing the herbs you use most frequently in pots. You can purchase them as seeds or seedlings at any good nursery. Not only will they enhance your cooking, they'll enhance your kitchen as well with their cheery, inviting look.

Using herbs correctly, and using fresh herbs whenever possible, is one of the things that separates a gourmet cook from a cook who's simply adequate.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Recipe - Winter Squash Soup

Right now, where I live, it's quite cold - about 15 F. That's too cold for me to spend much time outdoors, where I love to be in the summertime, but cold weather does offer great opportunities to cook some marvelous soups. One of my favorites is the Winter Squash Soup recipe presented below. It requires a bit of work, but that work is well worth it. This soup's not only guaranteed to warm you up on a cold winter's day, it's guaranteed to be delicious as well. It's great for lunch, or even for dinner, when served with a nice salad and warm, crusty bread. This recipe makes ten servings, so if you have any left over, just refrigerate it and serve it the next day.

Winter Squash Soup


3 1/2 pounds kabocha squash, halved and seeded
2 pounds butternut squash, halved and seeded
1 1/2 pounds acorn squash, halved and seeded
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cups water
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 white onion, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
4 1/2 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 pound peasant bread, crusts removed, bread torn into 1-inch pieces
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 1/4 cups creme fraiche
1 pinch ground cardamom
1 pinch freshly grated nutmeg
1 pinch ground ginger 1 pinch ground cloves


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Season the kabocha, butternut and acorn squashes with salt and pepper and lay them cut side down on two large rimmed baking sheets. Pour 1 cup of water onto each baking sheet, cover the squash with foil and bake for about 1 hour, or until tender. Let cool slightly, then scoop the flesh into a bowl. Keep the oven on.

2. In a large saucepan or casserole, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter. Add the onion and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 8 minutes. Add 1/4 teaspoon each of the cardamom and nutmeg and 1/8 teaspoon each of the ginger and cloves and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil over moderately high heat. Add the squash flesh and heavy cream and simmer over moderate heat for 5 minutes. Working in batches, puree the soup in a food processor and return to the pan. Season with salt and pepper and keep warm over very low heat.

3. Meanwhile, on a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the pieces of bread with the 3 tablespoons of melted butter. Spread the bread out and bake for about 8 minutes, or until golden brown.

4. In a small bowl, combine the creme fraiche with the remaining pinches of cardamom, nutmeg, ginger and cloves and season with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into bowls, dollop with creme fraiche and croutons and serve.

Yield: 10 servings

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Recipe - Fluffy Omelette

This light and fluffy omelette is perfect for Sunday breakfast or Sunday brunch. There are as many variations as your imagination can dream up (ours are just the start), so grab some fresh eggs and enjoy!

Fluffy Omelette

Ingredients: (Serves One)

2 free-range eggs
1 T. water
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
10 grams (2 tsp.) butter
1 1/2 T. chopped fresh curly parsley
1 T. chopped fresh chives
20 grams (1/4 C.) fine shredded cheese of your choice


Carefully measure and prepare all ingredients.
Place eggs and water in a bowl and lightly whisk with a fork until well combined and slightly frothy.
Heat butter in an omelette pan over medium high heat until it begins to sizzle.
Tilt the pan to coat the surface with the melted butter. (It is very important that the pan be hot and the butter sizzling before adding the egg mixture so the eggs will cook quickly and brown underneath, while remaining soft on the top.)
Add the egg mixture to the pan.
Use the back of a fork to quickly draw the cooked eggs from the edge of the pan towards the center and then tilt the pan so the uncooked egg runs to the edge.
Repeat the above process until the omelette is lightly set, about thirty seconds.
Cook the omelette, without stirring, for another thirty to sixty seconds or until the underside is nicely browned and the top remains soft and slightly runny or, if you prefer, lightly set. Be careful not to overcook.
Sprinkle the omelette with herbs, and cheese.
Use your fork to lift one side of the omelette and fold it over to the other side to enclose the entire filling.
The cheese will melt from the heat of the omelette.
Slide the folded omelette onto a warmed plate, salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately.


Mushroom and Herb Omelette - Before adding the egg mixture to the pan, cook 125 grams of sliced mushroom caps in 20 grams (1 T.) of butter in the omelette pan over medium high heat for five minutes or until tender. Remove from pan and set aside. Wipe the pan with paper towels and continue as directed in the basic recipe, sprinkling the mushrooms over the omelette with the herbs and cheese.

Smoked Salmon and Dill Omelette - Replace the cheese with 50 grams of thinly sliced smoked salmon, cut into strips and 1 T. of sour cream or mascarpone cheese, and replace the chives with 1 T. of chopped fresh dill. Continue as directed in the basic recipe.

Tomato and Bacon Omelette: Cook one thin slice of bacon, trimmed and copped, in the omelette pan over medium heat for three to four minutes or until beginning to crisp. Remove from the pan and drain on a paper towel, then continue with the basic recipe, sprinkling the omelette with 1/2 small ripe tomato, diced, the bacon, and the herbs, and cheese.

Basil and Parmesan Omelette: Replace the parsley and chives with 1 1/2 T. chopped fresh basil and replace the cheese with 20 grams (1/4 C.) finely shredded Parmesan cheese. Continue as directed in the basic recipe.

Note: Never salt eggs before or during cooking. Salt can cause the eggs to become tough during cooking. For best results, salt eggs, if desired, only after cooking.

The "Incredible Edible Egg" Has Gotten an Unfairly Bad Rap

I adore eggs. I love them soft-boiled, hard-boiled (especially in salads), poached, in omelettes, souffles, quiches, as egg salad, etc. If it's made with eggs, I love it.

Unfortunately, the egg, which is a marvelous source of nutrition, a source of high quality protein and vitamin B-12, as well as a source of a wide range of other vitamins and minerals, has gotten an unfairly bad rap because of its high cholesterol content.

Yes, eggs do contain quite a bit of cholesterol, but what most people don't realize is that that cholesterol isn't going to raise your overall serum cholesterol levels unless you eat eggs incessently, day in and day out. Two, three, or even four eggs per week probably aren't going to do you a bit of harm.

In fact, research has shown that our overall serum cholesterol levels are raised more by the intake of trans fats and saturated fats than by foods containing cholesterol, itself. Eggs do contain some saturated fats, but more than half the fat found in eggs is either monounsaturated or polyunsaturated - the "good" fats. In fact, if we don't take in enough of these good fats our body will actually raise our levels of LDL (low density lipoproteins) or "bad" cholesterol. Low density lipoproteins actually carry cholesterol around our arteries and deposit it on their walls, leading to coronary artery disease. The biggest risk factor for LDL cholesterol is a diet high in saturated fats and being overweight. Optimum LDL cholesterol levels are under 100, but a level in the low 100s is still very good.

HDL (high density lipoproteins) or "good" cholesterol, acts as a "cleanser," actually picking up the bad cholesterol from our arteries and eliminating it. Two of the best ways to increase HDL in our body are eliminating excess saturated fats from our diet and engaging in regular aerobic exercise. (And by "regular" we forty to sixty minutes a day, six days a week.) Optimum serum HDL levels are 60 or over. A person can have a very low overall cholesterol reading, but if his or her HDL is low, then that overall low reading isn't so good.

When choosing whether or not to include eggs in your diet, remember, too, that dietary guidelines apply to your overall diet, not to a single meal, a single recipe, or a single food. For healthy people, the advantages of eggs greatly outweigh their cholesterol content, which really, if eaten in moderation, won't raise your overall serum cholesterol count one bit.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Recipe - Linguine with Clams, Langostinos, and Artichokes

If you like pasta and shellfish, why not try something different and very, very special. This recipe is not only a wonderful pasta dish for a family dinner, it's also terrific to serve to guests. The addition of langostinos makes it very festive and different from ordinary "party" fare. And, perhaps best of all, for very busy cooks, it's easy. (Now, I promise - no more fish or shellfish - at least for awhile.)

Linguine with Clams, Langostinos, and Artichokes


1/4 c. butter
4 tbsp. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 sm. onion, minced
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. basil
1/2 tsp. hot red pepper
3 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
1 pkg. linguine
3 (7 oz.) cans minced clams with juice (We don't advocate using canned food, but sometimes even we have to agree it's far more convenient.)
1 pkg. langostinos, thawed and drained
1 (8 oz.) can artichoke hearts
Fresh grated pepper
Fresh grated Romano and Parmesan cheeses


Heat butter and oil together.
Saute onion and garlic until soft and straw colored.
Add clams with juice, langostinos, and artichoke hearts (drained and quartered).
Stir in oregano, basil, hot red pepper, parsley and pepper.
Simmer for 20-30 minutes, until sauce thickens slightly.
Serve over linguine cooked al dente.
Sprinkle freshly grated cheese on top.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Just for Fun - A Few Quotes Related to the Culinary World

Fish, to taste right, must swim three times - in water, in butter and in wine. (Polish Proverb)

The discovery of a new dish does more for the happiness of mankind than the discovery of a star. (Anthelme Brillat-Savarin)

I feel a recipe is only a theme, which an intelligent cook can play each time with a variation. (Madame Benoit)