Sunday, September 30, 2007

Fig and Prosciutto Salad

I am a fig girl so this recipe really hit the spot for me. The figs are marinated in a port, honey pepper sauce so you get this bite of sweet, peppery and salty from the prosciutto and then the goat cheese soothes it all and helps blend it together. It's just a heavenly combo.

3 tablesports port
12 mission black figs
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspons pepper

Mix all of this together. Cut the figs in half and place them face down in the port sauce. Let them sit for 2 hours.

Place two thin slices of prosciutto on the plate, place some arugula in the middle of the plate, put toasted walnuts of top of that. Pour some of the marinate on the arugula - it makes a good salad dressing. Put six of the fig halves on each plate and put a little dollop of goat cheese on each one. A soft Gorgonzola cheese would be delish too. Serves six.


The Cheese Table & Goat Cheese from St. Helena

Cheese wrapped in Chestnut Leaves & Cheese wrapped in Grape leaves

We we had the wonderful experience of meeting and talking with a cheesemonger - one who knows a whole lot about cheese. This one's name was John Raymond of Raymond & Co. Cheesemongers. This is what one person has to say about him -

"John Rayond is the most educated, informed and passionate cheesemonger in California. Whether teaching students, chefs or food enthusiasts, John looks into the soul of the cheese and somehow manages to draw it out, presenting it methodically to the uninitiated in a way that is both educational and tantalizing."

Well we found ourselves parked at his cheese table for most of the night, hearing all of his stories about how he found all of these different cheeses. He can look at a cheese and know what kind of cow/sheep/goat milk it is just by the color. He can even tell if it is a combination of animals. As he was telling us these stories, he was literally petting the cheese like it was an animal itself. It was really amazing. This guy is very passionate about what he does. We got to taste some incredible cheeses, so much that I couldn't sleep last night because I hadn't had so much rich food in so long. We tried some cheese wrapped in a fig leaf that was delicious and the goat cheese from St. Helena was just rediculous.

I grabbed his brochure - he will ship cheese anywhere for any event whether it's a wedding, cocktail party, business event, birthday, whatever. His website is and his phone number is 707-938-9911. Definitely use him for your next cheese table!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Friday Night Dinner Club

Last night, my boyfriend and I went to the Friday Night Dinner Club at The Chopping Block in Chicago. The Chopping Block is a cooking school for average joes like you and me located in the famed Merchandise Mart. They do just about everything there. They host parties, have a retail store and a tons of different hands-on cooking courses you can take.

On the menu last night was Seared Salmon with Hericot Verts and Truffle Bacon Vinaigrette and a Bittersweet Chocolate Pudding. Now, I hate fish so I'm not going to bother with the salmon recipe because you just pan sear it. As for the haricot verts...

Haricot Verts
2 pounds haricot verts (french green beans)
5 slices bacon cut into 1/2 pieces
1 shallot, sliced thin
1/32 lemon juice
Salt and pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a pinch of salt. Blanch the beans until they are crisp yet tender, about 2-3 minutes. Shock in a bowl of ice water until cold. Drain well.

Add bacon to pan and cook until crispy. Add the sliced shallot and cook about a minute until tender. Add the blanched beans to the pan and toss until warmed through. Deglaze the pan with lemon juice and season to taste with salt and pepper.

1 shallot, minced
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons truffle oil
salt and pepper to taste

Mix together the shallot, mustard, vinegar and honey. Slowly drizzle into the oil while whisking vigorously. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Bittersweet Chocolate Pudding

3 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup sugar
4 egg yolks
1/4 cup of corn starch
10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
1/2 stick of butter
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Place 1 1/2 cups of mile and the cream in a heavy sauce pan and heat gently.

In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, yolks, cornstarch, and the other 1 1/2 cups cold milk. Slowly whisk some of the warm mixture into the egg mixture, then put everything back into the pot and cook, stirring, over low heat until you ave a nice thick pudding. It can take up to 10 minutes. Don't stop stirring.

Remove from the heat and add the chocolate, stirring to melt. Add the butter and vanilla. Ladle into either ramekins or dessert cups and allow to chill in refrigerator. Serve garnished with a dollop of whipped cream.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Cheesy Goodness

Check out Epicurious' recipe of the day! This will be a must for me. I know my best friend, Carrie, would love to try this!

Cheesemonger's mac and cheese
Bon Appétit September 2007

Servings: Makes 8 servings

subscribe to Bon Appétit
ingredients1 1/2 cups coarsely grated Gruyère cheese
1 1/2 cups coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese (about 6 ounces)
1 1/2 cups diced rindless Brie (cut from 1-pound wedge)
5 tablespoons butter, divided
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
3/4 teaspoon (scant) nutmeg
4 cups whole milk
1 3/4 cups fresh breadcrumbs made from crustless French bread
1 pound penne pasta
8 teaspoons whipping cream (if making 1 day ahead)

Mix all cheeses. Set aside 1 cup for topping; cover and chill. Melt 4 tablespoons butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and stir until mixture turns golden brown, about 4 minutes. Add thyme and nutmeg. Gradually whisk in milk. Simmer until thickened and smooth, stirring often, about 4 minutes. Add cheeses from large bowl. Stir until melted and smooth.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add breadcrumbs; toss. Stir until golden, about 2 minutes. Transfer to plate.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Cook pasta in boiling salted water until tender but firm to bite. Drain. Transfer to large bowl. Pour cheese sauce over; toss. Divide among eight 1 1/4-cup custard cups. Sprinkle with 1 cup cheese. Place cups on rimmed baking sheet. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover with foil; chill. Drizzle each with 1 teaspoon cream. Cover with foil; bake 15 minutes. Uncover. Sprinkle partially baked chilled or just assembled cups with breadcrumbs. Bake pasta until beginning to bubble and tops are golden, about 20 minutes.
Makes 8 servings

Pancetta Crisps

I love Iron Chef. I get so many ideas from watching how they prepare, plate and serve all of their dishes. It baffles me to think how they pound out 5-7 courses in 1 hour for four people. It would take me about 4. Anyway, on an episode several weeks ago, Bobby Flay made pancetta crisps and added them as a garnish to one of his dishes. My mouth watered and all the judges raved about how adding bacon never hurts a dish. I agree.

That being said, I have started using them in my dishes. The only problem is if you leave them on the counter people will eat them. So make them and then hide them. Seriously.

Pancetta is pork that has been salt cured and dried for about 3 months. Each part of Italy produces its own type so there are a lot of variations. Go to the store and have your butcher slice them for you. Thin but not too thin. Or, at my store, they sell pre-packaged pancetta slices. Those work great, too. All you need is a cookie sheet. Lay out the slices on the cookie sheet and warm the oven to 400 degrees. Put them in the oven for 12 minutes, flipping them every four minutes or so. And that's it!


Thursday, September 27, 2007

Pasta Binge

Lately, I have been craving Italian. Now, this isn't really the norm for me. Usually when I crave a certain type of food its Thai or Mexican. I have a soft spot in my heart for peanut sauce and anything with cheese on it. And it just so happens that Italian loves showcasing cheeses in it's dishes. So, maybe this craving isn't that far fetched...

I have been pretty busy these days which means I am eating out a lot. I'd like to mention two of my Italian staples in Chicago, Rosebud on Rush and Mia Francesca.

Rosebud just happens to be about a block from my office. I've been dining alfresco there for lunches and dinners all summer. Like most Chicago Restaurants, the portions here are huge. So, I always box up my leftovers and finish them up the next day. The reason I keep returning to this spot is simple, their square noodles and sausage and peppers. These are two separate dishes but I combined them. The square noodles melt in your mouth and they're caked in a rich tomato basil sauce that is fantastic. Their sausages are top notch. I order these, slice them up with the peppers and add them to my noodles. There are several Rosebud in the city so to find one nearest you, check out their locations. They are currently celebrating 30 years of yumminess.

Now, on to Mia. This is one of my brother's favorite spots. He'll argue that you cannot order better pasta carbonara anywhere. And I'll admit that it is pretty darn good. If you decide to go to Mia Francesca, I would suggest that you start with their Carpaccio con Carciofi. It's dynomite. Thinly sliced raw sirloin with artichokes, mushrooms, carpers, olive oil and parmigiano. Sign me up. Mia also has serveral locations so to find one nearest you, look here.

Happy Pasta Binging!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Spotlight: Waverly Inn

What happens when the Editor in Chief of Vanity Fair decides to take a bite out of the restaurant world? You get Waverly Inn. And it's just a couple doors down from his very own West Village Brownstone. This place is one of those NYC hot spots that makes it nearly impossible for a regular joe to make a reservation. They don't even publish their phone number. Even if you get your hands on their 'secret line' they are sure to tell you there are booked. Reminds me of another NYC hot spot, La Esquina, that rejected me so many times last year that I finally gave up. I read about it often though, in UsWeekly...

However, I was on a mission to dine at Waverly Inn on my recent trip. So, my friend Simone and I came up with a stellar game plan: Go early and sit at the bar. Genius.

New Yorkers like to eat around 9. We got there at 6. Perfect. We were in. Turns out they were having a slow night due to a Jewish holiday. We asked if it were at all possible to dine in the main room- specifically the garden- and they let us. The dinning room was great. It is small which is to be expected on any West Village restaurant but has great booths, some intimate tables and the decor is exactly what you would expect. The garden, in my opinion, was beyond fabulous.

The truffle french fires were Simone's favorite. We both tried their seasonal soups to start; one corn and one tomato. I would have liked some grilled corn kernels on my corn soup as a garnish for texture but as a stand alone puree it was very good. The service was a group effort. Every one chipped in to fill your water, pour your wine, remove your plate, etc. I loved that. Because of the tag team effort, I thought our dinner service was spot-on and very friendly.


Monday, September 24, 2007

Recipe of the week: Chili

It's fall and football season so that means it time to start whipping up some chili. Now, chili is one of those dishes everyone has an opinion about just like homemade pasta sauce. Everyone thinks their recipe is the best and usually there are secret ingredients involved. I chose the recipe below because looks like a snap and it provides a good base if you want to tailor it to your individual palate.

Halftime Chili Recipe
This is the perfect chili dish to serve at your next halftime get together. Serve with grated cheese and tortilla chips for dipping.

• 3 Tablespoons olive oil
• 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
• 8 large garlic cloves, chopped
• 2 pounds ground chuck
• 1 envelope taco seasoning or 1/4 cup taco seasoning
• 1 teaspoon dried basil
• 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
• 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
• 1 15oz can tomato sauce
• 3 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
• 1 6oz can tomato paste
• 2 15 to 16oz cans of kidney beans (drained)


Heat oil in heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic. Saute about 8 minutes or until onions are translucent. Add chuck and cook until brown, breaking up meat with a spatula as it cooks. Add taco seasoning, basil, oregano, and thyme. Stir 2 minutes. Mix in tomato sauce, chicken broth and tomato paste. Simmer until thickened to desired consistency, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, about 1 and a half hours. Mix in beans. Simmer for 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until cold then reheat over low when ready to serve.

white lasagne

i've been thinking about white lasagne a lot, mostly because missy's jamie doesn't eat red sauce (he's an alien) and i was looking for something a bit more delicate than a traditional lasagne for a dinner party. most of the recipes used jarred alfredo, which is super gross. i'm not into shelf-stable dairy. actually i rarely eat alfredo that's not my own (hi, italian restaurant? it's me, erin. you know there's no cheese in alfredo, right? okay, you obviously don't.). i thought about just winging it, but i'm not sure how home-made alfredo would react to long baking. seems to me it would be a bit too thick and dry out.

anyway i finally found this recipe on epicurious. the answer, beschamel! i did change a few things...
1) i traded a can of drained and chopped artichokes for the mushrooms. because i didn't have to cook them...i didn't cook them. i just tossed them in the bowl with everything else. this means you're cooking the spinach alone and don't really have to cover the pan at all.
2) all of those spices = italian seasoning. read the label, really, i'm not kidding. i accidentally put 1/2 in the chicken and 1/2 in the spinach rather than 1/2 in the chicken and 1/2 in the ricotta. i didn't notice any lacking for/over spicing.
3) i did make it a few hours ahead of time and let it sit out. i find with no-bake lasagne sheets it's good, especially for the top layer, to let it hang out and soak up sauce. also you may want to push the pasta corners down with a spoon every so often, they'll curl a bit. i use the traditional flat kind. if you're really worried about that top layer not softening up enough, cover it for the first 20 minutes so it can steam a bit in the oven.
4) oh and after cooking the chicken i cut it into much tinier pieces. or you could shred it. i like my lasagne a bit more homogeneous, without all the big hunks of stuff.

For sauce
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups milk

For chicken filling
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 pound white mushrooms
3/4 pound fresh spinach
5 whole boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 2 1/2 pounds total)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons dry white wine
1 teaspoon Tabasco
a 15-ounce container whole-milk ricotta (about 1 3/4 cups)
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil

fifteen 7 x 3 1/2-inch sheets dry no-boil lasagne pasta
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan (about 1 1/2 ounces)
Make sauce:
In a saucepan melt butter over moderately low heat. Stir in flour and cook roux, stirring, 3 minutes. Add milk in a stream and bring mixture to a boil, whisking until thick and smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste and simmer sauce over low heat, whisking occasionally, 10 to 12 minutes, or until thickened. Transfer sauce to a bowl and cover surface with a buttered round of wax paper.

Make filling:
Into a small bowl crumble oregano, rosemary, marjoram, and thyme. Thinly slice mushrooms. Discard coarse stems from spinach and coarsely chop spinach. Cut chicken into 1/2-inch strips. In a large skillet melt butter over moderate heat and cook chicken, 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic, and half of herb mixture, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. Transfer chicken with a slotted spoon to a large bowl.

Add wine to skillet and bring mixture to a boil, stirring. Add mushrooms and spinach and cook, covered, until spinach is wilted. Add remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic, remaining herb mixture, Tabasco, and salt and pepper to taste and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until liquid given off by mushrooms is evaporated. Transfer mushroom mixture to chicken and stir until combined well. Reserving 1 cup sauce, add remaining sauce with salt and pepper to taste to chicken mixture and stir until combined well.

Preheat oven to 350°F. and butter a 13 x 9-inch baking dish (3-quart).

In a bowl whisk together ricotta, egg, basil, and salt and pepper to taste. Pour 1/2 cup reserved sauce into baking dish (sauce will not cover bottom completely) and cover with 3 pasta sheets, making sure they do not touch each other. Spread half of chicken mixture over pasta sheets in dish and top with another 3 pasta sheets. Spread half of ricotta mixture over pasta and top with another 3 pasta sheets.

Continue layering lasagne in same manner with remaining chicken mixture, pasta sheets, and ricotta mixture, ending with pasta. Spread remaining ‚ cup sauce over top and sprinkle with Parmesan. Lasagne may be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Bake lasagne in middle of oven 45 minutes, or until bubbling and golden.

September 1997
1999-02-01 16:06:45.0

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Secret Valley Ranch Dressing

The grocer in my building doesn't carry Ranch Dressing, and the other day I felt like a little Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing on my fresh Michigan tomatoes. He does carry buttermilk, so I was able to fashion my own from this Internet recipe for "Secret Valley Ranch Dressing" and it is terrific. I don't know about the msg part. I guess that is kind of scary. It sure tastes good though.

"Indeed, ranch dressing was invented at Hidden Valley Ranch near Santa Barbara, California, by a real salad-wranglin' rancher. In the '50s and '60s Steve Henson and his wife, Gayle, shared their 120-acre dude ranch with University of California at Santa Barbara students and other festive partiers for rousing weekend shindigs. The dozens of guests were served meals of steaks and salads topped with Steve's special blend of herbs, spices, mayonnaise and buttermilk. As word got out about the fabulous dressing more guests were showing up at the ranch and walking home with complimentary take-home jars filled with the stuff. "

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon msg (Optional- Accent brand is good and remember Kramer "Extra MSG!")
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
1 pinch dried thyme

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk until smooth.
Cover and chill for several hours before using.


The beautiful, crisp Chicago fall evening prompted Andy and I to venture out on foot last night in search of a good meal. We happened upon Tarantino's (1112 W. Armitage) and decided to pop in upon a quick scan of the menu.

The inside was warm and cozy - quiet enough to converse without straining the ears but happening enough to feel out on the town.

Our meal is worth mentioning. In part as motivation for any Chicagoans looking for a place to dine out and in part because I'm hoping that Ms. Shaw will undertake a few of these items at one of our next get-togethers. I'm certainly not a chef and won't do these items justice - but I'll put in as much detail as I can for any foodies that want to recreate at home.

The wine: An Argentinian Malbec: Terrazas de los Andes. Not too pricey and "way under-rated" according to my beau. I'm not efficient at describing wines...but the wine site that I looked up the name on said this - "Its deep dark violet color prepares you for the wonderful aromatics of this value-packed Malbec. On the nose mingle blackberries, plums, strawberries and more violets, while the palate is soft and refreshing, with a concentrated fruit core along with licorice notes and savory tannins." In short - very good and I highly recommend.

The starters: A beet salad on a bed of arugula with granny smith apples, candied walnuts, and a balsamic dressing. Very simple. Very tasty.

Grilled fig stuffed with goat cheese and wrapped in prosciuto. (Liz - this is the one I'd like you to try and recreate. Wow was this fantastic - unfortunately, only on the specials menu and not a full time menu item)

The entres: Andy had a mustard crusted rack of lamb with apricot chutney and brussel sprouts. Cooked to perfection - and we finally convinced this previous "well-done" guy to go medium rare, and I don't think he'll ever go back (thank goodness!)

I have been on a seemingly unending scallops kick, so I was delighted with the scallop risotto with yellow squash, zucchini, and red, green and yellow bell peppers. After a recent bad-risotto experience in the UK I was relieved to see this dish come out warm, gooey and delicious!

To top off a great meal our server (Ryan) was attentive, friendly and knowledgable. It's clear why these guys have been around for 12 years. Andy and I both give an enthusiastic thumbs up for anyone looking for a new Italian spot to try in Chicago.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

BLT's Popovers with gruyere

Chef Laurent Torondel has built a NYC empire. A BLT empire to be exact. The first of his empire, BLT Steak, was such a hit that he decided expanded. And expand he did. Now there is BLT , Prime, Market, Burger and Fish!

When concepts expand they can deflate. They may get that 'chainy' feel that lures tourists instead of locals. Your street cred can go down. Other chefs and food critics may start calling you a 'sell out'. Well, none of this has happened to our buddy Laurent. He's still a bad ass and a bad ass with a pretty respected restaurant empire that's always hoppin' every night of the week and always delivers great dishes.

By the way, did anyone else happen to catch his goat cheese battle on Iron Chef against other reigning NYC chef and bad ass Mario Batalli? Yeah, I wanted to jump in my TV screen to judge that competition. It was torture to watch but in a good way.

At BLT Steak, you get a popover instead of a bread basket. They are delicious but watch out because they will fill you up and the following courses are just as good if not better. I've made these a bunch of times and every time they impress and every time they're a hit. It's a win-win. They're a breeze to make and your guests will always ask for them next time.

Popovers with Gryuere
Adapted by
Yield: 6 Servings
This recipe should make 12 popovers – 2 per person. They can be topped with caramelized onion and diced bacon, if desired. (I recommend!)

4 cups milk
8 eggs
4 cups flour
1 ½ heaping Tablespoons salt
2 ¼ cups grated Gruyère cheese
Special equipment:Popover pan

Place popover pan in the oven. Heat oven and pan to 350°F.
Gently warm the milk in a pan over low heat and set aside. Whisk eggs until frothy and slowly whisk in the milk (so as not to cook the eggs). Set the mixture aside.
Sift the flour with the salt. Slowly add this dry mixture to the egg mixture and gently combine until mostly smooth.

Once combined, remove the popover pan from the oven and spray with non-stick vegetable spray. While the batter is still slightly warm or room temperature (but not cool), fill each popover cup ¾ full.

Top each popover with about 2½ Tablespoons of grated cheese. Bake until golden brown, about 50 minutes, rotating popover pan a half-turn after 15 minutes of baking. Remove pan from oven and serve popovers immediately.


It's Bears season, and we've gotta eat

to keep our strength up for the emotional roller coaster that is Sunday afternoon. (Oh, who are we kidding. The emotional Bears roller coaster at MY house runs all year long.) This past weekend, after a 3:15 game, I knew I was going to have 12 hungry, drunk people to fill up fast. So during the game, I popped in my fail safe homestyle meal, let it cook all afternoon, and it was a huge hit.

That or everyone was so drunk I could have fed them catfood and they'd have been happy. But whatever. Ask Erin, she ate it.

The recipe's originally from, by Roy Finamore. I've made it a dozen times, and it always turns out great.

Pot Roast with Porcini Mushrooms and Beer

4 pound chuck roast (or smaller if you want more sauce, less meat.)
Coarse salt and fresh ground pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil (yeah, right. i use much more)
1 1/2 pound onions, thinly sliced (who buys "pounds of onions"? Get 4 big ones.)
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 (12-ounce) bottle of beer (a belgian ale is good here)
1/2 cup water
1 bouillon cube
1 ounce (1 heaped cup) dried porcini mushrooms
2 tablespoons Dijon (which i usually forget to put in)

If you can plan ahead, season the beef with salt and pepper the night before you make this, covering it loosely and refrigerating it. Otherwise, try to season it at least an hour ahead and just leave it on the counter.

Heat the oven to 300°F.

Heat the oil in a deep, heavy ovenproof skillet or a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Brown the beef well, until it’s crusty on all sides. Transfer the beef to a plate.

Add the onions, thyme, and bay leaf to the pan, along with a big pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, until the onions are wilty and about half the size they were. Use the onion juice/liquid to scrape up any browned bit from the beef, which apparently you get if you cook properly with a porcelain or cast iron pot. I don't, i use a renegade wok-like pan that's non-stick, but whatever.

Pour in the beer and water, and smoosh in the bouillon cube. Add a little more pepper. Rinse the mushrooms under hot water, chop them, (which is hard, cause they're tough at this point and my knife is dull as hell, so i usually use the kitchen shears) and add them to the pot. You don't need to soak them back to life, the beer and roast will take care of that.

Bring the sauce to a boil.

Nestle (that's the word from the original recipe, it cracks me up so much I can't not use it) the beef in the sauce, cover the pan, and slide it into the oven. Roast for 1 hour. Turn the meat over, cover the pan again, and roast for another hour, until a fork goes in easy and the fat is melty looking.

At this point, you can turn the oven way down to wait for the game to end and the drunk people to stop violently high-fiving, if you're at my house for a bears game, or for my sister to wake up, if you're at my house for a holiday. If you're at neither, proceed logically.

Put the beef on a cutting board, tent it with foil, and let it rest. You can decant the fat now if you want by tilting the pan and letting it sit for a few minutes, then spooning off the fat, but I just mix it in. There's not that much of it unless you're using a REALLY fatty roast.

If you want the sauce a bit thicker, (you do) put the pan over medium-high heat for a few minutes, and stir a few times. When you’ve got the consistency you want, turn off the heat.
Stir the mustard into the sauce. (Or forget to.) Taste for salt and pepper.

"Slice the beef and arrange the slices on a platter. Nap with some of the sauce. Serve with the rest of the sauce on the side."

You KNOW that's from the recipe. The funny thing is, I actually copied that down into my recipe notebook! In reality, I make a big lake of mashed potatoes on everyone's plate, plop the meat on top, and gravy it all up. Yum.

Looking for Fresh Cabbage Ideas

I recently bought a cabbage the size of New Jersey at the farmer's market, and now I am wondering what to do with it. Slaw or soup is all I've come up with. I would appreciate any ideas from the Blog.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

She's back

Hi all, My guests are all gone and I am back to normal. E wanted my fudge sauce recipe even though all of u already have it. But here it is: In a microwaveable bowl pur in Nestle semi-sweet morsels. Pour in heavy crem to just cover morsels. Micro until very hot then gently mix w/ fork. Will be milk chocolate colored at first but will become smooth and the color of the morsels. If you chill it til firm u can scoop out balls, roll them in balls them roll in cocoa to make truffles. For truffles or sauce u can also add liqueur flavorings. Keeps for a couple of weeks.

My marinade for fajita chicken or beef is: 1/4 cu of my vinegarette, 2 T chili powder, 2T of cumin, 1 samall can of diced jalapenos or for whimps diced green chilies. Mix w/ for and coat the meat/chicken w/ it. Best if done overnight to get most flovor. Really good. I love all of you, Momma

Incredible Tortilla Soup

This is my first-ever blog posting... Thanks for the invitation to contribute, Liz - I love your blog! I had several requests for this recipe after serving it in Michigan with the Shaw family, so I feel good about it being my first contribution. It can be made year round, but will be great to have this fall. Plus it's pretty hard to mess up. The only laborious part is the shredding of the chicken, but you can do this in advance if you choose. I don't actually boil the chicken - just cook it on the stove, cool it a bit, and then use the two-fork shredding method. One disclaimer: this tortilla soup does not actually have tortillas in it, but Fritos are added on top, so I guess that takes care of that.

This serves a lot (if you transfer it to a crockpot, it will fill it and then some), but it's great as leftovers. Sorry I don't have a time!

4 cloves garlic, minced
2 large yellow onions, chopped
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 (14 ½ oz) cans stewed tomatoes
2 (10 oz) cans Rotel tomatoes... I use the "Milder" cans, which still provide PLENTY of kick!
2 (10 ¼ oz) cans chicken broth
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 (10 ¾ oz) cans Cream of Chicken soup
1 (10 ¾ oz) can Tomato soup
3 cups water
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. ground chili powder...I use one tsp
1 T. black pepper
4 T. fresh cilantro
* 1.5 lb boiled chicken, shredded
* 1 small bag Fritos
* 1 16 oz tub sour cream
* 1 (8 oz) pkg. grated cheddar cheese
* 2-3 avocados, sliced or cubed (if desired)

Cooking directions (use a large pot):
Sauté onions & garlic in oil. Add all ingredients except those *’ed. Bring to a boil, then add chicken and simmer 1 hour. Top with ‘extras” (remaining ingredients *’ed...these are a must!) and enjoy!!

I also have a great, EASY dip that is a delicious appetizer with Fritos, too. This also went over really well in Michigan and is great on football Saturdays:

In A Crunch Corn Dip

2 (11 oz) cans of mexicorn- drained
1 to 2 (4 ½ oz) cans of chopped green chilies drained very well (I used 2)
2 cups shredded Monterey jack cheese
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 cup mayo (can shave off a bit of mayo if desired)

Heat oven to 350. Combine all ingredients- mix well and place in baking dish.
Bake 30-40 minutes until lightly browned*. Serve with corn chips.
* It's hard for me to tell when this is actually finished baking... it should be kind of "stirrable" but not too goopy...but it's great no matter what!

Hope you enjoy! This is so fun!

Countdown to NYC!

Three days until my visit to NYC with my culinary partner in crime, Simone. Look for posts on Lupa, Waverly Inn, Morandi's and more next week!

What's in season?

Ever try to buy an avocado in November? Wonder why you can't find corn on the cobb in February? Fall is here and it's time to take advantage of the things that are actually in season instead of out. I have to admit, I don't know my seasonal fruits and veggies as well as I would like to. So, I decided to post this helpful guide I found on Food Network's website as a little crutch for the season. This includes descriptions of fall fruits and veggies and recipes to accompany them.

Fall's line-up includes:
  • Acorn Squash
  • Apples
  • Belgian Endives
  • Butternut Squash
  • Cauliflower
  • Celeriac
  • Figs
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Grapes (hence Napa Valley's current harvest!)
  • Mushrooms
  • Parsnips
  • Pears
  • Pomegranate
  • Pumpkin
  • Quince
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Swiss Chard


Monday, September 17, 2007

Artichoke Stuffed With Brie

I had a nice lunch at Bistro 110 off Chicago's Michigan Ave this afternoon. One of their signature dishes is their Artichoke stuffed with brie. It is so popular that they have hand outs of the recipe at each table and it is featured on their website. It's a rich starter but absolutely delicious.

Artichoke Stuffed With Brie
By Dominique Tougne
Executive Chef, Bistro 110 Chicago

1 each Artichoke
2 oz. Brie
1 T. Chopped shallots
4 oz. White wine
8 oz. Butter (1/4” slices)
2 oz. Whole grain mustard
1 T. White wine vinegar
Squeeze of lemon juice
Salt and Pepper

Cut off the top and bottom of the artichoke. Cook it in boiling water for 10-15 minutes until the bottom is easy to pierce with a fork. Run artichoke under cold water to stop the cooking process. When cool enough to handle, cut the inner choke away from the heart. Cut the brie into 1/2" chunks. Place the brie into the artichoke and throughout the leaves. Place on a cookie sheet and bake at 350° until the brie is melted (approximately 10 minutes).

To make the mustard sauce, combine shallots and white wine in a saucepan over high heat. Slowly add the butter and remove from heat. Then add mustard, white wine vinegar, salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice to the mixture. Drizzle mixture over artichoke and serve. Serves 4.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Recipe of the Week: Cauliflower soup with seared scallops, lemon oil, and america caviar

Ever since I ordered cauliflower soup this weekend, I've become a little obsessed with it. It was so wonderful and it's not something you think of serving very often. I searched and found this recipe that looks very elegant and showcases the cauliflower perfectly. I plan to kick-off my next diner party with this beauty.

Cauliflower soup with seared scallops, lemon oil, and american caviar
Bon Appétit October 2006

Now that imported caviar is no longer available, the domestic stuff is all the rage. Paired with lemon oil (sold at many markets), it's the ultimate garnish.

Servings: Makes 6 servings.subscribe to Bon Appétit


3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 cup chopped white onion
1 garlic clove, sliced
3 3/4 cups (1/2- to 3/4-inch pieces cauliflower (from 1 large head)
1 1/2 cups low-salt chicken broth
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
Coarse kosher salt
Freshly ground white pepper
1 leek (white and pale green parts only), cut into 1/8-inch-thick rounds
6 sea scallops, patted dry
1 (30-gm) jar American white sturgeon caviar (about 1 ounce)
6 teaspoons purchased lemon-infused grapeseed oil
Finely chopped fresh chives


Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic. Sauté until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add cauliflower, broth, and cream. Bring soup to boil. Reduce heat to low, partially cover, and simmer gently until cauliflower is tender, about 18 minutes. Puree soup in small batches in blender until smooth. Return to same saucepan. Season soup with kosher salt and white pepper. Do ahead Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool slightly. Cover and chill. Rewarm before serving.Blanch leek in small saucepan of boiling salted water 1 minute; drain. Place some of leek in center of each bowl. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in medium skillet over high heat. Sprinkle scallops with salt and pepper. Sear until brown and just opaque in center, about 1 1/2 minutes per side. Place 1 scallop on leek in each bowl; top scallop with caviar. Ladle soup around scallop, drizzle with 1 teaspoon lemon oil, and sprinkle with chives.
Makes 6 servings.


Spotlight: Bistro Campagne

When your friends or family are in town there are two things that you need to do before they arrive: Clean your apartment and make reservations. When my boyfriend's parents came to visit this weekend, we didn't hesitate making reservations at our 'special occasions' go-to spot Bistro Campagne.

This restaurant is located in Lincoln Square, a family friendly neighborhood north of Chicago. The garden is a wonderful place to dine in the summer and the main room and cabin are quaint and cozy in the winter months. The wine list is quality and affordable which is tough to find. The owner and executive chef, Michael Altenberg, opened this restaurant in 2002 and designed it to mirror his favorite neighborhood bistros in Paris. He is committed to the use of organic food products and strongly supports the sustainable, low-impact agricultural movement. The food is fresh, creative and down-right delicious.

The portions are generous and the menu features traditional French bistro fare. For my first courrse, I ordered the soup special, a creamy cauliflower soup, that was terrific. When it arrived to the table, it was lukewarm. I asked them to warm it up for me. Now, you know that they are going to toss it in the microwave and there is a good possibility they may over heat it and return it blazin' hot. The temperature of the soup when it returned was perfect and they even re-garnished it. So, that made it worth the wait. Make sure to save room for their chocolate molten cake. I'm not a huge fan of desserts but I will gladly eat this.

If you live in Chicago or are scheduled for a visit, I would highly recommend Bistro Campagne. To see their menu, click here

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Thai Curry

Ever want to make Thai food, but are too intimidated? Don't be! Last night we learned how to make it from our friend Cooper (he took the photos). It was so easy! Seriously. So here goes, the first recipe I have posted to the blog that I have actually tried and LOVED:

Cooper's Massaman Curry with Beef

2 piece of cinnamon stick
5 cloves
2 tbspoons vegetable oil
2 tbspoons massaman curry paste
1 lb beef flank or rump steak cut into 2 inch cubes
1 2/3 cups coconut milk
1 cup beef stock
2-3 potatoes cut into 2.5 inch pieces
3/4 inch piece of ginger shredded
3 tbspoons fish sauce
3 tbspoons palm sugar
2/3 cup salted peanuts w/o skin chopped
3/ tbspoons tamarind puree

Serves 4

Dry fry the cinnamon stick and cloves in a sauce pan or wok over low heat. Stir all the ingredients around for 2-3 minutes or until fragrant. Remove from the pan.

Heat the oil in the same sauce pan and stir fry the massaman paste over a medium heat for 2 minutes or until fragrant.

Add the beef to the pan and stir for 5 minutes. Add the coconut milk, stock, potatoes, ginger, fish sauce, palm sugar, 3/4 of the roasted peanuts, tamarind puree and the dry fried spices. Reduce the heat to low and gently simmer for 50-60 minutes until the meat is tender and the potatoes are just cooked. Taste then adjust the seasoning if necessary. Spoon into a serving bowl and garnish with the rest of the roasted peanuts.

We cooked the meat for longer than 60 minutes - more like 2 hours at a very low heat so the meat was falling apart by the time we ate it. It was DELICIOUS! Give it a whirl.

We also made spring rolls but I forgot to get that recipe from him.

Shrimp Sandwiches with tarragon-caper mayonnaise

I made these shrimp sandwiches when I was home in California last month. They were a big hit and VERY easy to make. I subbed ciabatta bread instead of the buns, added a little extra hot pepper sauce to the mayo for more kick and BBQ the shrimp instead of cooking them in the pan. They say 'optional' for the avocado and tomato but I think those two things are a must.

Shrimp sandwiches with tarragon-caper mayonnaise

Bon Appétit August 2007
Makes 6 servings. Molly Stevens

1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons drained capers, finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons grated sweet onion (such as Vidalia or Maui)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
1/4 teaspoon celery seeds
1/4 teaspoon (or more) hot pepper sauce
1/2 cup finely chopped celery heart with leaves
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter, room temperature
12 small (3-inch round) soft sandwich rolls or 6 hot dog buns, split horizontally1 pound cooked peeled deveined large shrimp, each cut horizontally in half
Tomato slices (optional)
Avocado slices (optional)
Thinly sliced butter lettuce (optional)

Mix first 5 ingredients and 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce in medium bowl. Mix in celery. Season with salt and pepper and more hot sauce, if desired. DO AHEAD Mayonnaise can be made 6 hours ahead. Cover; chill.Lightly butter cut sides of rolls. Heat griddle or large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add rolls, buttered side down, to griddle and cook until golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Spread mayonnaise over bottom of each bun. Top with shrimp, tomato, avocado, and lettuce, if desired. Cover with top buns. Transfer to plates.


Friday, September 14, 2007

Vanilla Panna Cotta with Pear Jam

Today is my boyfriend's birthday so naturally I have been thinking about desserts. I ran across this recipe on a quick trip to Epicurious this morning. This looks very easy to make and I thought I would share.
Vanilla Panna Cotta with Pear Jam
Epicurious September 2007

Start this recipe a day before you plan to serve it. Both the pear jam and the panna cotta are best if chilled overnight.
Makes 8 to 10 servings
Lachlan Mackinnon-PattersonFrasca Food and Wine

For pear jam
2 pounds ripe Bartlett pears, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1 cup sugar
For panna cotta
4 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin from 2 (1/4-ounce) envelopes
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise

Start pear jam In large bowl, toss together pears and sugar. Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight. Make panna cottaIn small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over cream. Let stand until gelatin softens, about 1 minute. Meanwhile, in medium saucepan over moderate heat, whisk together milk and sugar. Scrape in seeds from vanilla beans; add beans. Heat, whisking occasionally, until sugar dissolves, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in cream mixture. Strain through fine-mesh sieve, discarding vanilla beans, then ladle mixture into 8 (4-ounce) ramekins. Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight. Finish pear jamIn heavy medium saucepan over moderate heat, combine 1/2 cup water and pear mixture. Bring to simmer, uncovered, and cook until pears are tender, about 20 minutes. Transfer mixture to food processor and purée until smooth. Transfer jam to medium bowl, cover tightly, and refrigerate until cool, about 1 hour. (Jam will keep, covered, in refrigerator up to 1 week.) Unmold and serveRun thin sharp knife around inside edge of each ramekin to loosen. Dip bottom of 1 ramekin in bowl of very warm water 6 seconds. Put plate over ramekin, then invert panna cotta onto plate, gently lifting off ramekin. Repeat to unmold remaining panna cottas. Top each with 1/4 cup pear jam and serve.


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Couscous with Chicken

Couscous is my new obsession. It's light and very versatile. During my quick visit to Atlanta, I borrowed an easy and delicious recipe from Ina Garten's staple cookbook, Barefoot Contessa, for a quick dinner with my sister and her husband. Leftovers are just as good if not better. I added chicken breast strips on top to convert it into a light entree.
I subbed Greek yogurt ('cause I would never use any other kind but that's my personal opinion) and I doubled the seasoning and added lots of garlic ('cause garlic is always good...) Don't be turned off by the amount of ingredients. You should have most of these and if you don't, invest, it's worth it!

1 1/2 cups couscous
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup good olive oil
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup small-diced carrots
1/2 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup dried currants or raisins
1/4 cup blanched, sliced almonds (you can buy these pre-made at the store, recommended)
2 scallions, thinly sliced (white and green parts)
1/4 cup small-diced red onion
Place the couscous in a medium bowl. Melt the butter in the boiling water and pour over the couscous. Cover tightly and allow the couscous to soak for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.
Whisk together the yogurt, olive oil, vinegar, curry, turmeric, salt, and pepper. Pour over the fluffed couscous, and mix well with a fork. Add the carrots, parsley, currants, almonds, scallions, and red onions, mix well, and season to taste. Serve at room temperature.

What I added:
I sauteed thin chicken breasts (if bought whole just tenderize) and seasoned them with curry powder, sea salt (of course), pepper, and lemon.


in addition to roasted tomatoes...

i'm always getting heaps of fresh garden tomatoes from friends this time of year (lucky, i know) and if you're already thinking about roasting them anyway you can take it a step further and make a fabulous fresh roasted tomato sauce.

per foil pan:
3 medium sized tomatoes
1 large onion

multiply as necessary as per how many tomatoes have been bestowed upon thee. cut the tomatoes in half and core them. peel/halve the onions and slice into 1" sections. toss in the foil pan in olive oil, season with salt, pepper, and dried thyme. arrange the tomatoes so they're cut-side down.

you can also add some carrots if you're feeling sassy.

roast for an hour at 425. remove from oven. let cool or not, depending on your tools. take a pair of tongs and you can pluck the skin right off the tomatoes (incidentally the first time i did this i seasoned after i arranged, and then of course removed all the seasoning when i pulled the skin away) and discard. if you're using a blender or a food processor i would let it cool a bit but if you're using an immersion blender comme moi just toss it all (yummy juices too!) into a bowl and immersaway!

you won't get nearly as much sauce as you anticipate, but isn't that always the case? this stuff freezes like nobodies business.

troubleshooting: if the skins aren't popping right off you need to toss those bad boys back in the oven for another 10 minutes. a little black = roasty goodness.

Next Generation Chefs Beware!


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Best (Pretend) Pumpkin Pie in the World

My niece is precious. Now, I know that all of us think that our siblings/ cousins/ nieces/ etc are precious but this is the real deal. This afternoon, my niece asked me to 'play' in her kitchen. Can you imagine my response? I RAN! I asked her what she wanted to cook and she relied 'a pumpkin pie'. She has two plastic pumpkins that she 'sauteed' in her pan and then pressed through a sieve. After that, we put them in a pan and slid it in the oven. We waited about 2 minutes and our pie was done! Voila! Delicious...



Thank you Bonnie Smith for forwarding the email about her family friend's new Chocolate Business, See her website and sign her fair trade petition below. Congratulations Bridget!


Hi Guys!

I am SO excited that is officially on the web! Please check out to look at all our hard work and please sign our Fair Trade Petition which will be sent monthly to the Top 3 chocolate companies in the world as well as various Fair Trade organizations.

Right now, we are still delivering only to the Houston area, but nationwide delivery will begin in November! Please check back periodically to see our seasonal flavors and specials, and be sure to send this to all of your friends! Thanks so much for taking the time to check out!

I hope to hear from you all soon,


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Chocolate... WITH BACON

Hog Heaven

Those who love the taste combination of savory and sweet should be buying the new Vosges chocolate bar by the case. Vosges, for the uninitiated, is a chocolate company known for mixing seemingly odd flavors with very successful results. Their newest bar combines deep milk chocolate with crunchy bacon. That's right: every carnivore's favorite breakfast meat mixed with chocolate. And guess what? It's delicious

Monday, September 10, 2007

Spotlight: Agnes & Muriels

I'm off to Atlanta tomorrow and that has me craving some good ol' southern food. Agnes & Muriels is an 11 year old restaurant in Atlanta's Midtown that bring's home cooking to whole new level. Every entree will have you licking your fingers and unbuttoning your pants. Check out their mouth watering entree selection:

Salmon Croquettes three sauteed patties with lemon tartar sauce . . .9.95
Pork Chops with Cinnamon Apple Fritters two chargrilled chops with apple fritters . . .14.95
"Boneless" Buttermilk Fried Chicken two marinated chicken breasts, with the wing bone attached, coated with seasoned flour and southern fried . . . 14.50
Coca-Cola BBQ Baby Back Ribs Full rack of Baby Back Ribs somthered in Coca-Cola BBQ Sauce...20.95
Yankee Pot Roast fork-tender beef, slow simmered with tomatoes, caramelized onions, and brandy...14.95
Cracked Mustard Seed Chicken Grilled boneless chicken breasts in a creamy wholegrain cracked mustard seed sauce...11.95
Dad's Chargrilled Steak changes daily . . .market price
Sesame Fried Lobster Tails Three tails battered and deep fried served with an Oriental dipping sauce. . .market price
Louisiana BBQ Shrimp over Grits gulf shrimp baked with spicy cajun butter over country grits . . .14.95
Lump Crab Cakes three Maryland-style crab cakes with reb bell pepper sauce . . .15.95
Turkey Meatloaf two slices of lowfat turkey meatloaf with mushroom gravy . . .9.95
Vegetable Plate choice of four vegetables . . .8.95

For the recipes, check out their cookbook. Mmmmmmmmmm

I'm not lazy, just deprived

I was just thinking that it's really sad that I haven't posted ANY sort of recipe or photo lately, and I was feeling really guilty that I was being a lazy blogger, but then I realized it's between working full time and taking two classes (chemistry? please! ick!) and trying to do 25 billion hours a week of homework for said classes, I really haven't had time to cook anything. It's quite depressing, actually.

So with that, here's my contribution.

What I ate this weekend:
*pad thai and crab rangoon from opart thai with jamie, dash, and erin on friday (it's very delicious thai food, and if you live in chicago, i'd suggest it.)
*turkey, pesto, swiss and about a pound of butter lettuce (the really tasty kind that comes with the roots still on it) on sourdough
*a famous hackney's burger (on dark rye) at dinner with jamie's charming grandparents on Saturday night
*1 burnt fried egg
*1/4 of a frozen pizza (blech)

This is how sad my culinary life has been lately. :(

Recipe of the Week: Roasted Tomatoes

This is a side staple for me. In fact, I made them last night. Roasted tomatoes are so easy to make and so delicious that they're our recipe of the week.
It's this simple:
  • Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees
  • Cut tomatoes in half
  • Brush them with olive oil
  • Season with (sea) salt and pepper
  • Roast for 60-75 minutes

You can also top them with:

  • Pesto
  • Sliced garlic
  • Chopped basil
  • Italian seasoning
  • Mozzarella
  • Parmesan
  • Diced olives
  • and more!


Saturday, September 8, 2007

Squash Blossoms

What is more quintessentially summer than squash blossoms? These gorgeous treats are impossible to find in a super market as they only last 3-4 hours once they've been picked. So, the best way to find these is to grow them yourselves or get to the Farmer's Market in the early AM. Squash blossoms are the perfect receptacle - they like to be stuffed. Think ricotta, goat cheese, crab, sausage, go ahead, get creative. You can put anything in them. The blooms are so thin and they have a sweet light taste to them.

I usually just fry them unstuffed because I love the pure taste of the blossoms themselves. Just add one cup of flour to one cup of water or milk; add a little bit of salt. Fry them in olive oil. Once I've fried them, I squeeze meyer lemon juice on top and sprinkle sea salt. It is to die for. Such a delicious treat and it adds a colorful flair to your menu ensemble.

Here is a fab stuffed squash blossom recipe from Epicurious:

Friday, September 7, 2007

Farmers' Market Salad with Spiced Goat Cheese Rounds (and Shrimp)

This is a great recipe to help milk your farmers' market before the season is over. I added jumbo shrimp and cooked them on scewers on the BBQ. I seasoned them with salt/pepper and fresh lemon juice.

Farmers' Market Salad with Spiced Goat Cheese Rounds (and Shrimp)

Bon Appétit August 2007
Makes 4 main-course servings.Molly Stevens

Goat cheese rounds
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 teaspoons ground cumin
11/2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
16 (1/3-inch-thick) rounds chilled soft fresh goat cheese (from one 11-ounce log)

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 shallot, minced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse kosher salt

1 pound baby new potatoes (such as Dutch yellow baby potatoes), halved
1 pound green beans (or mix of green and yellow), trimmed
8 cups (loosely packed) mixed salad greens
1/3 cup (packed) small fresh basil leaves
12 ounces assorted small tomatoes (such as cherry, grape, and teardrop; preferably mix of red and yellow)
1/2 cup black olives (such as Niçoise)

For goat cheese rounds:Line baking sheet with waxed paper or parchment paper. Mix first 6 ingredients in shallow bowl. Dip cut sides of goat cheese rounds into spice mixture to coat. Place on prepared baking sheet. Chill until ready to serve. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before serving.

For vinaigrette:Whisk first 4 ingredients in small bowl. Gradually whisk in olive oil. Season with coarse salt and pepper. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Rewhisk before using.

For salad:Steam potatoes until just tender, about 10 minutes. Transfer to plate; cool. Steam green beans until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Rinse under cold water; drain. Pat dry with paper towels. DO AHEAD Potatoes and green beans can be made 6 hours ahead. Wrap separately in paper towels. Place in resealable plastic bag; chill.

Combine greens and basil in large bowl. Add enough vinaigrette to coat lightly; toss. Arrange on large platter. Add potatoes and green beans to same large bowl; add remaining dressing and toss. Arrange potatoes and beans atop greens. Scatter tomatoes and olives over. Surround with goat cheese rounds.


All Hail Guigni's!

If you know anyone in my family or if you have ever been to Napa Valley then chances are you have had a sandwich from Guigni's. Not one Christmas in the Shaw family has gone by without the exchange of Guigni's gift certificates. I cannot say how long Guigni's has been around, but it's been years. And it's a local favorite.

They used to sell cigarettes there. If your check bounces, they'll tape it to the counter. If it's your birthday, it's written on butcher paper and taped on the window facing Main Street. Want a sugar rush? They're loaded with trillions of candies and treats. They sell booze. It's a down-right American Institution.

When you walk in, it's as if you have gone back in time. The walls are covered with random memorabilia spanning many twentieth century decades. Celebrity autographs are taped on various shelves. Business cards of locals are stapled along the hallway leading to the back alley entrance. Some are so old, they are brown... This place has got charm, history and passion for damn good sandwiches.

The deli case holds at least 30 different types of meats and an equal amount of cheeses. You make your selection and someone slices them to order. The meats and cheeses (notice that this is plural) are then passed down the line where the magic happens...

You have a choice of breads like Sweet Rolls, Onion Rolls, Seeded Rolls, Jalapeno Cheddar, Dutch Crunch and more. The breads are made fresh in Napa and delivered daily. The options from there are endless. This is what I always get:

  • Smoked Gouda

  • Black Forest Ham

  • Peppered Turkey

  • Seeded Roll

  • Mayonnaise (Homemade!)

  • Lettuce

  • Tomato

  • Onion

  • Avocado

  • Sprouts

  • Pesto (Homemade!)

  • Guigni Juice

Always say 'yes' to Guigni juice. It's a homemade vinaigrette with herbs and they even bottle it if you wanna take it home.

So, how do you Guigni?


Thursday, September 6, 2007

King of the Castle

That's right folks, a castle in Napa Valley. Not only that, a twenty-first century castle made of thirteenth century materials imported from Europe. Oh, and on top of that, it's over 120,000 square feet. Wait, there's more! An acre and a half of it is underground. A man's dream or a man's ego? A question worth exploring...

V. Sattui is a a great rags to riches story from the Napa Valley. This man has made his millions with his retail only vineyard that sits on HWY 29 just before you enter St. Helena. It's famous for picnicking, weddings and gorgeous views of the valley floor and surrounding hillsides. This place is constantly packed. Cars overflow from the parking lot and park along the highway and stretch limos pull in by the dozens. It's been the go-to spot since 1985. Not bad. Chaaa-Chiiing.

Over the last 10 years, Sattui has shifted his focus to his bold new addition to the valley, Castello di Amorosa. Once again, my pictures do no justice here. If you would like to see better shots, click here.

When you pull up to the castle, there is no landscaping. Zero. On top of that, the castle is surrounded by young vines. I think this castle will be a sight to truly see in the years to come when both the construction and the land mold and age together. Everything was just a little too fresh and new. However, it was beautiful and it had incredible views of the valley and nearby vineyards (or competitors in his mind). Our tour guide told us that Sattui made sure that his castle was built higher than Sterling Vineyard on the opposing mountain for bragging rights. He also made sure he had the most square footage in the valley. He's in 1st place and the Culinary Institute of America is now in 2nd. Our tour guide also made references to Aaaarrrrrnnnold (as in Schwarzenegger...), the 49er football team and more celebs that have graced the grounds. He spoke of Sattui himself as if he were a Greek God and the whole time I wondered when the tasting would start...

Egos and dreams aside, Castello di Amorosa is worth the visit. But, make sure to make a reservation. The King likes to know who he will be expecting.


Pork with Poached Plums

I decided to try this recipe when I came across a plum stand at the St. Helena Farmers Market last Friday. However, in a very rookie move, I chose plums that were too ripe to serve as you see above from I ended up straining out the skins, pits, etc and just serving it as a sauce on top. We quickly made a peach and blackberry cobbler to add fruit back to the menu which ended up being an overall success on both ends.

Per my mom's request, I didn't use star anise and used cheap dry wine I had on-hand because I didn't want to drive 15 minutes down the hill to the valley floor to buy different wine. No one seemed to notice...

Pork with Poached Plums
Bon Appetite

At 26 Brix in Walla Walla, Washington, chef Mike Davis takes plums to the savory side—where they bring a bit of acidity to a spicy sauce for pork.
Servings: Makes 6 servings

sweet firm red or black plums (such as Burgundies, Satsumas, or El Dorados; about 2 pounds), quartered, pitted
2 cups Pinot Gris or Viognier
1 cup dry red wine
2 whole star anise*
§ cinnamon stick
1/4 cup plus 1 1/4 teaspoons sugar, divided
2 cups low-salt chicken broth
5 fresh thyme sprigs plus 1 teaspoon finely chopped thyme, divided
2 tablespoons chopped shallot
2 1 1/4-pound pork tenderloins
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
2 garlic cloves, minced
Chopped fresh chives

For Plums:Combine first 5 ingredients and 1/4 cup sugar in heavy large saucepan; bring to boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat; simmer until plums are tender, about 20 minutes. Transfer plums to platter. Strain wine mixture.Return strained liquid to same saucepan. Add broth, thyme sprigs, and shallot. Boil until mixture is reduced to 1 cup, about 25 minutes. Strain sauce; stir in 1 1/4 teaspoons sugar and chopped thyme. Season with salt and pepper.DO AHEAD:Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover plums and sauce separately; chill. Bring plums to room temperature; rewarm sauce over medium heat.
For Pork:Preheat oven to 400°F. Brush pork with 1 tablespoon oil; sprinkle with thyme, garlic, salt, and pepper. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork and cook until brown on all sides, turning often, about 5 minutes. Transfer skillet to oven, and roast pork until thermometer inserted into center registers 140°F, about 20 minutes. Remove skillet from oven and let pork stand 10 minutes. Cut pork crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Serve with poached plums and sauce. Sprinkle with chopped chives.*Available in the spice section of some supermarkets and at specialty foods stores and Asian markets.
Makes 6 servings


A food blog you should check out

It's called "The French Laundry at Home," and it is freaking hysterical. The author, Carol, is determined to make everything in Thomas Keller's French Laundry cookbook, with just ridiculous consequences. Clearly, these are way technical fine dining dishes that really shouldn't ever be attempted at home, and the fact that they even released a cookbook is clearly just so they can mock all of us. The entries about her hatred of Oysters and her traumatic soft-shell crab experiences made me laugh out loud at my desk. She's great. I think of her as the voice inside my head, if I could write it out as well.

An excerpt:

Hi there. Can you hang on a sec? Thanks. I'll be right back.........

::::: takes a long sip from her glass of wine :::::

Whew. Much better.

It was either a glass of wine or a trip to the mental ward. Why, you ask? Because I just cut the faces off half a dozen soft-shell crabs. Cut their faces off. With scissors. WHILE THEY WERE STILL ALIVE. Do you want to know what happens when you cut their faces off? Do you? DO YOU!!?! Well, read on then. 'Cause I'll tell you. It's not pretty folks. Not at all.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Roasted Red Pepper Soup

This was great starter to one of my meals. However, anyone considering this recipe should know that it is labor intensive. I left some of the roasted skin on the peppers (partly for timing and partly due to laziness) and I think it gave it more of that roasted flavor that they refer to in the title.

We added red chili flakes to give it some heat and we served each portion with a dollop of homemade pesto I made from my mom's basil bush and sour cream. I would suggest adding these items when you make this recipe, too. I thought they worked beautifully and really added to the dish without distracting from the soup.

Chilled Roasted Red Pepper Soup

Gourmet August 1999 Serves 8

7 red bell peppers (2 3/4 pounds)
1 medium onion
1 small boiling potato
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3 1/2 cups water
2 cups chicken broth
1 medium tomato
Accompaniment: lime wedges

Quick-roast and peel peppers. Chop onion. Peel potato and cut into 1/4-inch dice. In a 5-quart heavy kettle heat oil over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking and sauté onion, potato, and cumin, stirring, 5 minutes. Add roasted peppers, water, and broth and simmer, covered, 20 minutes, or until vegetables are very tender.
While soup is cooking, peel and seed tomato.

Purée soup in batches with tomato in a blender (use caution when blending hot liquids), transferring to a bowl, and season with salt and pepper. Cool soup. Chill soup, covered, at least 4 hours and up to 2 days. Adjust seasoning.

Serve soup with lime wedges. (I used a basil leaf instead)


Spotlight: Rose's Cafe

If you live in San Francisco or if you are planning a trip, run don't walk to Rose's Cafe. We've made a habit of blogging about go-to spots and this one happens to my sister, Lucille's. Rose's is a bistro cafe that sits on the corner of a quiet street in San Francisco's Cow Hollow neighborhood. On a picture perfect day, the kind that makes you want to pack your bags and move on the spot, we sat outside underneath shady awnings.

This place is all about great food with no fuss. I'm just going to let the pictures of some of our dishes prove it...

Grilled Peach Bruschetta with Gorgonzola and Honey on Homemade Sourdough (We tried to recreate this dish in Napa but it didn't come close to the original. Will need to keep trying...Worth it for sure!)
Wild King Salmon Cozy, Cherry Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Red Onion, Watercress & Herb Aioli (The manager, Matt, said this was their best selling dish at lunch time)
Smoked Prosciutto, Crescenza, Sage and Thyme on homemade Focaccia (I had them add tomato)


Many thanks to our master chef and her family!

So we're back from the (long) weekend in Napa Valley. Just wanted to publicly thank everyone in the Shaw/Beatty family for such a fantastic trip. The food, wine and company were to die for! I give my personal stamp of approval for any recipe posted from the weekend, Elizabeth did an amazing job and we were all spoiled rotten. My personal favorites were the amazing pork with plum sauce, the Beatty Ranch salad, and the peach cobbler with the blackberry sauce. Cheers for fresh markets! A great trip - thanks again.

Recipe of the Week- Key Lime Pie

Carrie Wass made this in Napa last weekend and it was gone before she put it down on the table. Only bummer is that you have to wait a minimum of 8 hours to eat it due to chill time. Worth every minute, though.

Key Lime Pie
Gourmet May 2003

Key limes are also known as Mexican or West Indian limes. If you can't find them in your area, substitute bottled Key lime juice. We've tried several different brands in our test kitchens, and prefer the taste of Manhattan.

* This recipe is modified from the classic one found on many condensed milk and Key lime juice labels; we've added additional lime juice for more tartness.

Active time: 20 min Start to finish: 10 hr (includes chilling)Makes 8 servings.

For crust1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs from 9 (2 1/4-inch by 4 3/4-inch) crackers
2 tablespoons sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For filling
1 (14-oz) can sweetened condensed milk
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh or bottled Key lime juice (if using bottled, preferably Manhattan brand)

For topping
3/4 cup chilled heavy cream

Make crust: Preheat oven to 350°F.
Stir together graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter in a bowl with a fork until combined well, then press mixture evenly onto bottom and up side of a 9-inch (4-cup) glass pie plate.
Bake crust in middle of oven 10 minutes and cool in pie plate on a rack. Leave oven on.
Make filling and bake pie: Whisk together condensed milk and yolks in a bowl until combined well. Add juice and whisk until combined well (mixture will thicken slightly).
Pour filling into crust and bake in middle of oven 15 minutes. Cool pie completely on rack (filling will set as it cools), then chill, covered, at least 8 hours.

Make topping: Just before serving, beat cream in a bowl with an electric mixer until it just holds stiff peaks. Serve pie topped with cream.

Cooks' note: • Pie (without topping) can be chilled up to 1 day.
*Available at Manhattan Key Lime (212-696-5378).

I'm back, too!

We just got back from just over a week of vacation, too! Damn, being back at work sucks. When I'm caught up, though, I had the TASTIEST vegetarian entree at this place in Denver....

Back from Vacation!

Just returned from a great vacation in Napa. Look for lots of posts this week about what we cooked and where we ate in San Francisco and Napa Valley.