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.