Friday, September 28, 2012

Turmeric Tonic Cocktail

I have been trying to kick my coffee habit. I love a nice cup of coffee, and the most savored cups being when the seasons change. There is nothing better than when the weather cools and you get that first cup of hot coffee. Or when the winter chill finally breaks and there is that one warm spring day. And you take that first sip of iced coffee. I broke down and had a cup of coffee the other day. It's a hard habit to kick, but what is helping me are my turmeric tonics. I've been combining turmeric, saffron, honey and water. Sometimes, I add ginger to the mix or substitute agave syrup for the honey. And it tastes so good to me, I though to myself, "This would be a great drink!" So if you enjoy turmeric also, you'll enjoy this drink! This makes 2 cocktails. Enjoy and have a happy weekend!

  • 2 oz. vanilla vodka
  • a few strands of saffron
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 8 oz. gingerale, divided

In a small covered container, combine the saffron and the vodka. Let this sit for a minimum of 12 hours. Add in the turmeric and combine well. Using muslin cloth, stain the liquid, gently squeezing the fabric to get all of the liquid. (I'm sure a paper towel will work fine.) Divide among 2 glasses and pour in the gingerale. If you would like a sweeter drink, you can always add honey or agave syrup.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Oven-Fried Rosemary & Garlic Chicken Wings

Rosemary is a powerful herb. And if there is too much of it, it can be overwhelming. But when used in the right amount, it's absolutely delicious and makes the dish even better. There was a deli in my hometown, that made the best rosemary chicken wings, using whole rosemary leaves. There were so many rosemary leaves among the coating of the chicken, I don't even know how they weren't overwhelming but it was a perfect union of juicy chicken and earthy rosemary, that made the taste buds happy! That deli has been unfortunately closed for many many years. And I wish I could say this is the recipe, but in their own right, these are so good! And if you are a rosemary and garlic lover, you won't be disappointed. Serve with the garlic aioli on the side, to compliment the chicken. Serve 4 for dinner or more as an appetizer. Enjoy!

For the chicken wings, you will need:
  • 2 pounds chicken wings
  • flour for dredging
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • heaping 1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
  • 1/2 heaping teaspoon minced fresh rosemary, plus for garnishing
  • 3/4 teaspoon Vegeta or any all-purpose seasoning you like
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 sweet paprika
  • fresh ground pepper
  • cooking spray

For the garlic aioli, you will need:
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • sea salt
  • 1 oz. olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon light cream

Combine the bread crumbs, rosemary, Vegeta, garlic powder, paprika and fresh ground pepper. Adjust the seasoning, as needed. Set up your breading station, having a plate for each of the flour, eggs and breadcrumbs. Dredge your wings in the flour, then the eggs and lastly the bread crumbs. Generously spray the bottom of a heavy bottomed 13x9 baking dish with cooking spray and place your wings into the pan, in a single layer. Bake your wings in a 350 degree pre-heated oven for 20 minutes. Carefully remove the pan from the oven and again, generously spray the top of the wings with cooking spray. Flip the wings over, so they brown on the other side. Bake for 20 more minutes. While the wings bake, you can make your aioli. Smash and mince your clove of garlic with a little sea salt until it forms a paste and set aside. In a small bowl, slowly whisk your olive oil into the egg yolk until well emulsified. Add the garlic paste in, until well blended, followed by the mayonnaise and cream. Adjust the seasonings to your liking. Garnish the wings and aioli with extra rosemary sprinkled over them, if you like.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Fried Apples with Mascarpone Cheese & Honey

It's apple picking season! And if you are lucky enough to get to an apple orchard this season, go and have a great time! The weather is perfect for it. It's cool and crisp outside and soon enough, there will be crackling leaves under foot. Wear a cozy sweater and enjoy some hot apple cider, on your walk through the orchard. It's a magically time of year, to be enjoyed. As you arrive home, with an eager heart, dumping out those apples onto the kitchen table, keep this recipe in mind. You can make these the minute you get home from the orchard and have that apple pie craving satisfied, quickly. Try to use crisp apples and if you are unsure, ask the people at the orchard if the apples would be suitable for frying. And eat them nice and hot. Enjoy!

  • 2 apples, peeled and sliced about a 1/4 inch thick (I used Golden Delicious & Granny Smith)
  • 1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • a pinch of pumpkin pie spice
  • flour for dredging
  • milk (I use a little at a time, as needed)
  • canola oil for frying
  • 1/2 cup Mascarpone cheese
  • 1 oz. light cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • honey

Start out by making your Mascarpone cheese spread, so it's ready for the hot fried apples. Using a whisk, combine the Mascarpone cheese, light cream and vanilla extract. Add a pinch of cinnamon if you like, to the dip. Set aside until the apples are ready. Set up your breading station, plates for the flour and bread crumbs, and a nice small bowl for the milk. Have an empty plate for the breaded apples. Into the bread crumbs, add the cinnamon and the pumpkin pie spice and combine well. First dredge the apples in the flour, followed by the milk and lastly in to the breadcrumbs. Heat up the canola oil in a heavy bottomed pan, on medium heat until nice and hot. Once hot, carefully put in the breaded apple slices. Fry each side for about 2 minutes, until golden brown. Try not to crowd the pan, and drain on paper towels. Set up your plate with the apples, Mascarpone cheese and honey. This serves 2, double as needed, figuring an apple per person.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Spanish Style Pork Chops

Smoked Spanish Paprika, what a great spice to have in your cabinet! When I started sauteing the garlic and I added the paprika, it tasted so good, I wanted to just eat it, alone, lol, maybe on crusty bread. And my head started spinning with possible ways to use this spice. This is a new addition to my spice cabinet, that I am really excited about! Once you open the tin, you get a burst of earthy smokiness and a subtle unexpected sweet aroma. This recipe is a little time consuming, so make it when you don't have to rush or when you have a pair of helping hands in the kitchen. Enjoy with Manchego mashed potatoes to get a little taste of Spain in your kitchen tonight. Enjoy!
For the pork chops you will need:
  • 4 center cut pork chops, about 1 1/4 pounds
  • 1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon Smoked Spanish Paprika, divided
  • 1 teaspoon Vegeta or any all purpose seasoning you like, divided
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • flour for dredging
  • 1-2 eggs
  • canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 teaspoon capers
  • 1 heaping tablespoon halved Manzanilla olives
For the Manchego mashed potatoes you will need:
  • 1 1/2 pounds potatoes, roughly chopped, skin left on, cooked until soft
  • 1/4 cup grated Manchego cheese
  • 2 oz. light cream
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • sea salt
  • handful of raw sliced almonds, toasted *optional
Start off my setting up your breading station, having the flour, eggs and bread crumbs on separate plates, with an extra for the breaded chops. To the bread crumbs add 1/4 teaspoon of the paprika, 1/2 teaspoon Vegeta and fresh ground pepper. Adjust the seasoning of the breadcrumbs as needed. In a heavy bottomed pan, heat up the canola oil. Put enough oil in the pan, to fry the pork chops. You want to fry the pork chops on medium heat, until light golden brown on both sides. They will finish cooking in the oven. Once done frying your pork chops, drain on paper towels and set aside. In a heavy bottomed pan, combine 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the minced garlic, 1/4 teaspoon paprika and a few saffron threads. Let the garlic cook on low heat until soft, add in the can of tomatoes, with the juice, 1/2 teaspoon of Vegeta, the capers and the olives. Crush your tomato mixture with a potato masher to break down the tomatoes a little bit. Let this cook for 10 minutes. Place your pork chops down in a single layer, in a 13x9 baking pan. Spoon your tomato mixture over the pork chops and around them evenly. Drizzle a little extra olive oil over the top. Place in a 350 degree preheated oven for 20 minutes. If making the Manchego mashed potatoes to go with your pork chops, you want to put them on the stove the about same time that you start sauteing your garlic. To your cooked potatoes, add the butter, cream, cheese and salt. Mash until combined and creamy and adjust the seasonings as needed. Top with the toasted almond slices and enjoy!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Fried Bologna Sandwich

There are few words that come to mind, when describing a fried bologna sandwich: yum, guilt, heavenly, forbidden, scrumptious, sexy, lol. Many words to describe a fried bologna sandwich, that transcend the deli counter. Frying the bologna with onion and peppers, gives it a whole new take on the humble luncheon meat, making it glorious. Did I just describe a sandwich as glorious? I guess so, lol. Enjoy your (fill in the blank) sandwich! ;)

  • 1/4 pound bologna, about 3 thick slices
  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced onion
  • 1/2 cubanelle pepper, sliced thin
  • 1 pat unsalted butter
  • 1 ciabatta roll, cut in half
  • mayonnaise
  • sea salt

In a heavy bottomed pan, melt the butter and add the onion and pepper. Saute on low heat for about 10 minutes, until the onion caramelizes and the pepper is softened. Slice the bologna slices in half, and stack them on top of one another and cut into 1/2 inch slices. Add to the onion and pepper. Spread the bologna slices out so they have space to fry up and brown. Fry for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Season with sea salt if needed. Spread a little bit of mayonnaise on both roll halves and top with the fried bologna. Serve with chips. And a locally grown apple, just to quiet the guilt. ;) Enjoy!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Cucumber & Radish Salad

Just in case anyone wanted to make a quick cucumber & radish salad to have with yesterdays' post, "Grilled Porgy with Potato Chip Crumbs," here it is! It's such a simple salad to make, but it compliments the fish in such a way, that it leaves you nicely satisfied. Try to use garden fresh cucumbers, but if the seeds bother you, you can certainly use seedless cucumbers. The dressing is just olive oil and crunchy sea salt, it's so simple and so fresh! Enjoy! And I hope you are enjoying your first weekend of fall! :)

  • thinly sliced cucumber slices, halved
  • thinly sliced radishes
  • radish sprouts
  • good extra virgin olive oil
  • crunchy sea salt, like Maldon

There are no amounts in this recipe because really it's depending on how big of a platter or plate you are using. And how much you like radishes and the sprouts, they can be pretty bitter. Begin by layering the cucumber slices, top with the radish slices and the sprouts. Drizzle with a good amount of olive oil and top with the sea salt. If making this ahead of time, dress with olive oil when ready to eat, so the radishes don't lose their crunch.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Grilled Porgy with Potato Chip Crumbs

Awww...the last bittersweet day of summer has arrived. And I can't think of a better dinner to have on this last day, than grilled fish with a potato chip crumb topping. The porgy looked so fresh at the seafood counter, I had to bring one home. As I thought what to do with this sweet tasting fish, potato chips came to mind, lol. And the result was unexpected and really tasty. You don't want to spend all your time on dinner, on this last night of summer, and this dish is on the table in no time. Serve with a crisp cucumber and radish salad and light cracker bread to make a nice meal. Serves 1-2. Happy weekend everyone!

  • (1) 1 pound whole porgy, cleaned
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley, plus a spring of parsley to stuff the fish with
  • a handful of kettle cooked potato chips, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • a few saffron threads
  • sea salt
  • fresh ground pepper

Make sure to look over your fish and scale it, if some parts were missed. Fish scales and potato chip crumbs don't mix. ;) In a small sauce pan, melt 1/2 tablespoon of the butter and add the shallot and the saffron until the shallot is translucent, cooking on low heat. Once the shallot is translucent, add the parsley. Season with salt and ground pepper. Stir until the parsley is a little wilted, about a minute and stir in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. You can grill the fish directly on the cast iron flat pan, or use aluminum foil for easy clean up. Whichever you chose, drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil on the surface. Take your spring of parsley and remaining 1/2 tablespoon of butter and place inside of the fish. Next, cover the surface of the fish with the parsley mixture. If using the foil, cup the edges, to capture any juices and place on the cast iron flat pan. Heat your grill up to 550 degrees and grill for about 5 minutes until the topping is light brown. Once the topping is light brown, top with the potato chip crumbs for 5 minutes, until the crumbs begin to brown. Test for doneness when the fish flakes, if you are unsure. Keep an eye on the crumbs, they can burn quite easily. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

King Oyster Mushroom Parmesan

I love chicken and eggplant Parmesan! And I think it's the one dish that almost everyone enjoys. The other day, I grilled up some king oyster mushrooms and they were so delicious, I immediately thought, "This needs to be Parmesan-ed." Juicy breaded meaty mushrooms, swimming in a good marinara sauce topped with bubbling hot cheeses placed on top of a oh-so-perfect mound of spaghetti. What's not to love? Such soul satisfying comfort food, on a chilly, almost autumn night. The only thing needed to complete the meal is a green salad tossed with an olive vinaigrette and a nice glass of wine. There is something bad about this meal, I gotta admit, you just want more of it, lol. It's just that good! Serves 6.

  • 10 oz. king oyster mushroom, about 3, bottoms trimmed
  • 1 25 oz. jar good marinara sauce, warmed through
  • 4 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • canola oil, for frying
  • 3/4 pound spaghetti, cooked al dente

Wipe your mushrooms clean with a damp cloth. Next, trim the mushroom caps, lengthwise, so they are even with the stems, so it's easier to fry. You can reserve the trimmings for another use. You can toss them into a broth, soup or stew, to give it a little extra flavor. Cut your mushrooms lengthwise, so they are about 1/4 inch thick.

Dip your mushroom slices into the egg, followed by the bread crumbs. Have everything breaded and ready to go into the oil. Heat up your canola oil on low to medium heat. Fry the mushroom slices for about a minute to two minutes per each side. Drain on paper towels and move them onto a paper bag. Fry in batches, until all of them are done. Next, take half of the sauce and pour it into a heavy weight 13x9 inch baking pan. Arrange the mushroom slices so they all fit in one layer.

Top with the remaining half of the tomato sauce and the grated mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Place in the oven, about 6 inches away from the broiler, which is set on high. Broil for 8 minutes, until bubbly and browned on top. Every oven is different, so keep that oven light on and keep an eye on it, so it doesn't burn. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Cedar Smoked Sea Salt

A rushed day, sometimes equals a rushed dinner. And sometimes those are the best, a simple thrown together meal like a warm, soft, yet crusty baguette topped with good unsalted butter and smoked sea salt. This can be a really nice appetizer also, especially when you serve the salt left right on the plank, so everyone can salt their own buttered piece of baguette. The smoking gives the salt an ever so delicate aroma of  cedar and mellows out the sting of the salt. This is perfect to use instead of your usual sea salt to give your food a slightly delicate smoky flavor. Enjoy!

  • 1 cedar plank
  • 2 tablespoons sea salt

Have your plank submerged in water, for a minimum of an hour. (Don't forget that your planks are reusable.) Heat up your grill to about 500 degrees. Have your grill gloves on, a water filled spray bottle, and long tongs nearby. Take extra caution when smoking the salt, they start popping, once they get really hot. I would suggest wearing safety goggles, better safe than sorry. You can crush some of the salt if you would like smaller pieces. Place your plank on the grill for 3 minutes, flip and place your salt on it, in one thin layer. Occasionally, stir with a fork. Smoke for 10 minutes or longer. If the edges start burning, spritz with water. Keeping an eye on the plank is best, as it can catch fire easily. Please take all precautions necessary. Once your salt is smoked, take the heat off, but you can let the plank sit in the grill, until it cools. Remove with tongs and store in glass container to retain flavor.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Pumpkin Pie Greek Yogurt

One of the prettiest things about fall, are pumpkins. I've been so excited about Halloween already. I know, I know, I am rushing along the season. I had to talk myself out of decorating the house. The ripped up black curtains were almost up! And on top of that, I was picking out pumpkins, for the front steps. I had to step away, the main reason being, the squirrels will have a full sit down dinner, enjoying those pumpkins and lucky me will have to clean up after them. So I stepped away from the pretty pumpkins and at the same time, I don't want to rush this beautiful time of year, but I do want a little taste, so I made this pumpkin pie Greek yogurt. It's almost as good as the real thing. Creamy, spicy and has that pumpkin pie flavor, that only autumn gives. Enjoy!

  • 17.6 oz. Greek yogurt
  • 5 tablespoons pumpkin fruit butter
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • generous pinch pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 ginger snap cookies
  • 1 teaspoon raw pumpkin seeds *optional

Combine the yogurt, pumpkin butter, honey, vanilla extract and pumpkin pie spice in a small bowl. Adjust the seasonings, adding more spice, fruit butter or honey, depending on the sweetness and flavor of the pumpkin butter. Crush your ginger snap cookies and combine with the pumpkin seeds. Sprinkle them around the rim of the bowl, mimicking the crust and the best part, if you let it sit a little, it gets as moist as the real thing! Serves 2.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Pistachio & Panko Encrusted Grilled Salmon

I love pistachios and wish that they would come up with a grinder that holds pistachios, like they have for sea salt and cinnamon sugar. I hope someone is reading this from Everybody's Nuts! or McCormick. They need to merge this idea! lol I would take my pistachio nut grinder everywhere! Okay, maybe not everyone feels the same passion towards pistachio nuts, that I do, but really, bite into one and savor all of its' explosive flavor. They are delicious and I just love them! I'm gonna have to look into growing them in the front yard or something, lol. (Not sure how that's gonna to work on the east coast.) So if you are a passionate pistachio lover and happen to like your pistachios as more than just a snack, this may be the dish for you! Serves 4.

  • 1 pound salmon, skin on
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallot
  • 2 tablespoons shelled pistachio nuts or more, minced
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 6 tablespoons plain Panko bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • sea salt
  • fresh ground pepper

In a heavy bottomed pan, combine the butter, oil and the shallot. Saute the shallot, until translucent, on low heat. Stir in the pistachio nuts, parsley and the Panko crumbs, stirring often so the crumbs don't burn, but get light golden brown. Stir in the mayonnaise and combine well. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, as needed. Heat up your grill too about 500 degrees. Cut your salmon into 4 pieces. Layer two sheets of aluminum foil down, big enough to fit the fish, and cup at the edges. I use the foil for easy clean up, but if you want, you can cook directly on the cast iron grill flat pan. Drizzle olive oil down, on either the foil or the pan and season the salmon skin with sea salt and fresh pepper. Lay the salmon, skin down, puzzling them back together, so it looks like one piece. Press the pistachio and Panko mixture onto the top of the salmon. Try to keep the crumbs on the fish, once they fall onto the pan, they burn quickly. Grill your fish for 10 minutes. I like my fish a little pink in the middle, so keep an eye on it, grilling to your liking, fifteen minutes and it should be cooked completely through. It depends on the thickness of the fish also. A great side to the salmon, is farm fresh corn, grilled in their husks. Trim the corn of any husks that are splaying, they will just burn. And also, trim the silk if too long. Run your husks under the water and grill along the fish, directly on the grates. I used to submerge the corn for an hour in water, but forgot to and ran them right under the water, before hitting the grill and it worked just as well! Grill the corn until the husks blacken, and inside you will find perfectly cooked corn. Enjoy!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Open-Faced Tomato & Sorrel Sandwich

Finally a red tomato! (Surrounded by seven green ones, but that's okay. Who's counting? lol) I am looking at this, with a glass-full-type-of-attitude and relishing my sweet success, by enjoying every bite of this tomato, on a ciabatta roll with good unsalted butter. As I looked out the window, I saw this red jewel, revealling its' beauty, as she stood out among the green of the leaves and the unripe tomatoes. I knew I had to pick my first and probably last red tomato quickly, before a squirrel came along and swiped my prized treasure. And I didn't want to have to break out the karate moves and wrestle my victorious tomato away from a squirrel. ;) Happy weekend everyone!

  • 1 good tomato
  • 1 ciabatta roll, whole wheat or white
  • 2 tablespoons good unsalted butter, like Plugra
  • crunchy sea salt, like Maldon
  • fresh ground pepper
  • 1 sorrel leaf, cut into strips *optional

Cut your roll in half and butter both sides with unsalted butter. Cut your tomato into thin slices and overlap them on the buttered roll halves. Salt your tomatoes and top with the sorrel strips. Top with fresh ground pepper and enjoy! (I caught the squirrel peeking into the window, while I was eating my sandwich, all I had to do was a karate chop motion in the air, and he was gone.)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Floating Bookshelves

By now, the kids have gone back to school and their little noses are in the books, reading away and studying for that first test. I love to read, a good escape is always nice. You don't have to board a plane, to be worlds away with a good book. You can be on the tropical beaches of Hawaii, a few paragraphs in. And I've collected a few good books over the years, "And now, where to store them all?" If you have a empty wall and a bulky bookshelf doesn't seem to be a good solution, floating book shelves can be the answer. It's getting chilly out, get ready to get to cuddle up with a blanket and a good book! Enjoy! :)

I love these floating shelves by Umbra, they are absolutely awesome! They look like they are really floating and the books are kept intact by a little lip, that holds the book securely. The website shows you how it works. You can check it out and buy them at They come in two sizes, small and large. But I've found that the small works as well with large books also. The small size fits standard novel size, about 6" across but also fits larger books 9" across, with no problem. You can design your own book shelf this way or with rows across, down, or any way that makes you happy!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Egg Pappadelle with Beef Ragu

It's been a little chilly on the east coast. And as the chill comes in, the sweatpants come out. It's not a pretty picture, lol and I just want carbs, carbs and more carbs! And the best carb, welcome cooler weather dish to make, is a hearty beef ragu, that simmers on the stove for a couple hours and is tossed with pappadelle. It's comforting-soothing-the-soul type of dinner fare, it's just satisfying. This is great to make on a lazy Saturday or Sunday, where you have a little more time. Use good Parmesan cheese to top your pappadelle with and you will be in love with this dish. This beef ragu recipe makes 8 servings. So you can enjoy half today, and freeze the rest for another day. Serves 4. Enjoy!

  • 1 1/2 pounds beef chuck short ribs, on the lean side
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1-2 porcini mushroom bouillon cubes
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 pounds fresh garden tomatoes
  • 2 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2-3 tablespoons heavy cream *optional
  • a pinch of Vegeta or any all purpose seasoning that you like
  • a few basil leaves, minced
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • sea salt
  • 8 oz. egg pappadelle, cooked al dente

Lightly salt your beef ribs. In a Dutch oven heat up the olive oil on low to medium heat, once sizzling add in the beef ribs meat side down. Let your meat get a nice brown crust and turn over to brown the other sides. Keep an eye on your meat as it can burn easily. Brown the side with the meat closest to the bone last. Once your beef is browned, add in four cups of water and bring to a boil. Add in a porcini mushroom cube and taste to see if you need to add another. Lower the heat, cover and simmer for one hour. In the mean time, bring a pot of water to a boil and blanch the tomatoes. Gently drain them and let them cool. Once cool enough to handle, peel your tomatoes and roughly chop them. To your tomatoes, add your garlic and with a hand immersion blender, blend until smooth. In a small Dutch oven, melt your tablespoon of butter. Once your butter is sizzling, add in the tomato puree. Let it simmer for 30 minutes on its' own. When your hour is up simmering the beef broth, carefully remove the beef and add to the tomato sauce along with 1 cup of the porcini beef broth. The remaining beef broth can be frozen for future use or served before the pasta with freshly made garlic croutons. Bring your tomato and beef to a boil. Once you have a boil going, lower the heat and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Once the hour is up, remove the beef and the bones, by this time, the meat is so tender that its' fallen off its' bone. Let the tomato sauce continue simmering. With a knife, carefully remove the chewy tissue that is closest to the bone. It's a little tough and you don't want that up against a perfectly tender pappadelle noodle. Cut the meat up and naturally with a fork, you will be able to break up the meat almost shredding it. Once broken up, put it back into the pot, until it is simmering again. Once simmering again, add in the heavy cream, Vegeta, basil and the fresh ground pepper and stir. Gently toss in the pappadelle so they are all coated with the beef ragu. Put on those comfy sweat pants, sit in a comfy chair and enjoy. ;)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Random Acts of Kindness: Floral Bouquet

Today is a day that changed our lives forever. I was in the city, to the day, eleven years ago. The morning was beautiful, the sun was shining and it was warm, the hustle and bustle was no different than any other day. Until I got to class, and all the TVs were on, and the towers were falling. Everyone was in tears and in disbelief. After the initial shock was over, a unity fell over the city and a new kindness took over. I would say there was a slower pace, possibly from shock and also because people were more vulnerable. There was a bond that was invisible. Everyone was nicer to each other. And in todays' memory, do something nice for someone, that is unexpected. Getting coffee? Have a dollar or two left over? Leave it for the next person that comes up to the counter. Driving down a road with a toll? Pay for the car in back of you also. I would do that occasionally when I would drive down the Garden State Parkway and I will never forget the day my toll got paid! It made me feel so good, this random act of kindness. It left me with a happy feeling all day long. Have a surplus of tomatoes from your garden? See if you neighbor would like some. Smile at a stranger, give someone a compliment today that maybe you wouldn't have normally. Make someone smile. Haven't seen mom in a while? Stop by with flowers and a big hug! Or stop by and give flowers to someone who has made you a better person. They will really appreciate it. And all of these random acts of kindness don't have to end today, this can be just the beginning!

I hope you never got rid of those dusty etched glass vases, they are great for mini bouquets that are just perfect for RAOK! Keep an eye out at garage sales if you are in need of some, they are great to have on hand! To make this bouquet you will need a small vase, a few large green leaves, (I used leaves from a hydrangea bush.) Use the leaves to line the vase, you will only need a few, about three, overlapped, it's just so you don't see the stems. Trim three large orange Celosia to fit the vase, and place them against the edge of the glass. Fill in the rest of the bouquet organically with the purple Gomphrena and Baby's Breath and smaller Celosia if needed. Add water and make someone happy today!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Inside-Out Salmon Sushi Platter

This platter is so much fun to eat and different from the ordinary day in and day out dinner fare. I love going out for sushi. I love the whole experience from the green tea and miso soup at the start of the meal, to the beautiful sushi platter being brought to the table. Sometimes I feel bad eating it, as it looks like pure artwork on a plate. But I get over it fast (lol) and the delicateness and deliciousness of the meal takes over and I'm a happy girl! So I thought, why not try to make it at home and have something really fun for dinner? This is great because everyone can make their own hand rolls, as they like. Share this platter among four people. Serve with edamame for an appetizer and green tea ice cream for dessert! Enjoy!

  • 1 pound salmon
  • 1 oz. olive oil plus a little for cooking the rice
  • 1 tablespoon Ponzo sauce
  • five spice powder
  • 1 package sushi nori sheets, about 7"x8", cut diagonally, creating triangles
  • 1 cup short grain brown or sushi rice
  • 2 cups water
  • sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons Gomasio (black & tan sesame seeds & sea salt)
  • 3 oz. enoki mushrooms, quickly blanched and rinsed with cold water
  • 2 1/2 inch piece of seedless cucumber
  • handful of radish sprouts
  • 1 small avocado
  • 1 small ball of wasabi
  • soy sauce
  • Sriracha sauce
  • mayonnaise

To start, cook the rice by bringing 2 cups of water to a boil. Toss in your rice, add a little sea salt and a drizzle of olive oil. Cover and simmer on low heat for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally until the water is absorbed and the rice is tender. Stir in the Gomasio and adjust the seasonings as needed. Pack into a pretty bowl, smoothing the top of it with the back of a spoon. While the rice is cooking, make the sauces. There are 3 different ones here, a wasabi soy, Sriracha mayo and a wasabi mayo. The only problem being, there are no measurements for the sauces because it depends on the wasabi and how hot you like your sauces and if you like them at all. I love spicy sauces and it makes every roll a little different. Ideally you want to fill a shot glass or more or find a small bowl you will use for the sauces and then go from there, really experimenting with the heat. For the wasabi soy, I combined 1/2 of the wasabi ball and added soy sauce. For the Sriracha mayo, start with about 2 to 3 tablespoons of mayonnaise and add in the Sriracha sauce until it's as hot as you like. For the wasabi mayo, I did the same, starting with mayonnaise and then adding in a little bit of the wasabi until it was just right and I topped it with some Gomasio. If you aren't a fan of spicy sauces, just have soy sauce on the side. Next, julienne the cucumber and scoop out the avocado and cut as thin as you can. Prepare the salmon by heating up the grill to 500 degrees. I used aluminum foil, for easy clean up but you can cook the salmon directly on the cast iron flat pan. Combine the ounce of olive oil and the Ponzo sauce. If using foil, use two sheets and make a kind of bowl out of it, cupping the edges so the juices don't pour out, while cooking. Season both sides of the salmon with five spice powder. Pour half of the oil mixture on the bottom of the foil. Place the fish on top, skin side down and then pour the remaining oil mixture on top. Place your fish in its' foil on the cast iron flat top and grill for about 10 to 15 minutes, until the fish is cooked through. The great thing about this platter is, it's great room temperature, so no real pressure of getting everything on the table at the same time. Arrange everything on a platter, including the remaining wasabi and enjoy! Serve with soy and  Ponzo sauces on the side. To make your hand roll, have the nori triangle with the point facing you and in the center place your rice, salmon, veggies and sauces, and slowly roll, keeping the point, so the goodies don't fall out, but if they do, it's okay, that's what the chopsticks are for! Have fun! :)

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Green Tomato Salad with Chicken Fried Steak

When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade and when given green tomatoes, you make green tomato salad! I'm not giving up on my green tomatoes, there are still sunny warm days left. But now and then, I snatch one off the vine and I'm disappointed as its' slightly citrusy bitter taste overwhelms my tongue and the back of my throat feels slightly tingly. But I've found the solution to enjoying green tomatoes by lightly pickling them. In the mean time, I thought why not make chicken fried steak with an Italian Japanese flair? (I used Italian seasoned panko crumbs.) It was delicious, especially when topped with a basil cream and enjoyed with the salad! The steak is great served warm and the salad, room temperature!

For the chicken fried steak & basil cream you will need:
  • 1 pound top round steak, cut into 4 pieces
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • flour for dredging
  • Italian seasoned panko crumbs
  • canola oil
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • a few basil leaves, minced
  • sea salt
  • fresh ground pepper

For the salad you will need:
  • 6 small good tomatoes, (small plum size)
  • 12 cherry size green tomatoes
  • 1 to 2 radishes
  • a tablespoon sliced shallot
  • 1/4 cup pear infused white balsamic vinegar plus 2 tablespoons
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • juice of one lemon, 1/2 for shallots the other half for the vinaigrette
  • 1 1/2 ounces extra virgin olive oil
  • pinch Vegeta or any all purpose seasoning you like
  • fresh ground pepper
  • sea salt
  • a few green or purple basil leaves cut in half lengthwise and then cut thin

To made the salad, you want to cut the tomatoes, radishes and shallots thin. (Save the rounded edges of the tomato for egg omelettes or another use.) Get a little pickling liquid going by combining the 1/4 cup vinegar, sugar and a little sea salt. Let the green tomatoes sit in the liquid for 1 hour. Squeeze 1/2 of the lemon juice on the shallots and let that also sit for 1 hour. They can both sit at room temperature. I used what I had on hand but if you are using big tomatoes, I would use 1 green to every 2 red tomatoes. Begin by placing the red tomatoes down in one layer, on a big platter. Spread the radishes around, followed by the drained shallots and drained green tomatoes. Spread the basil on top. Make the vinaigrette by combining the olive oil, juice of half the lemon, 2 tablespoons vinegar, Vegeta and the ground pepper. Adjust the seasonings as needed. Spoon over your salad. For the chicken fried steak, pound the pieces of meat very thin, until about three to four times its' original size, using the spiky side of the meat mallet. Dredge in flour followed by coating the steaks in the beaten eggs and then into the panko crumbs. Have all of them done and ready to go into the oil. Heat up your canola oil in a heavy bottomed pan on medium heat until sizzling hot. (Enough to coat the bottom of the pan.) Place one by one in the pan and turn over after about one minute, once browned flip over the fry on the other side for about a minute.They fry up pretty quickly. Repeat with the other steaks, allowing to dry on a paper bag or paper towels. To make the basil cream combine the heavy cream, basil, sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Pass the basil cream around so everyone can spoon it over their steaks. Serve with the green tomato salad and enjoy! Serves 4

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Champagne Grapes & Gorgonzola Cheese Sauce with Spaghetti

As I stood at the stove waiting for the the water to boil, I yearned for something a little more interesting for dinner but I didn't want to sacrifice time. I wanted something quick but something gourmet. I love September for many reasons and the different varieties of grapes available are one of them. I love Concord and Champagne grapes, they are always a treat for me, come this time of year. I could eat a bunch of Concord grapes for dinner and be a happy girl. As I stood there, tossing the spaghetti into the boiling water, salting it and giving it a drizzle of olive oil, I thought of the Champagne grapes that I planned to munch on, while looking through the Vogue September issue. Once I opened the fridge and saw those grapes, they were practically begging to be combined with the Gorgonzola cheese that was sitting on the second shelf and the spaghetti that was boiling away on the stove. Was I excited, as I put away that jar of roasted garlic tomato sauce, as deeply satisfying it is, at times. This dish doesn't take much time but tastes like it took all day! I loved this dish and I hope you do too! This serves 3, but it's so good, that it could just end up serving 2. ;)

  • 1/2 pound spaghetti, cooked until al dente
  • 1 cup of Champagne grapes
  • 1 cup loosely packed crumbly Gorgonzola cheese plus a few slivers for garnish
  • 2 oz. light cream
  • 1/2 pat unsalted butter
  • a few hazelnuts, crushed and roughly chopped for garnish

In a non-stick pan, melt the butter on low to medium heat until it sizzles, add the cream and cheese, stir with a spatula until the cream thickens up and the cheese melts. This only takes about a minute or two. Add the grapes and increase the heat to high until the grapes are warmed through. This takes about 3 minutes. I'm telling you, this dish is so quick to pull together! The only time consuming part of this dish, is the water boiling for the spaghetti and pulling the grapes off their branches! Pour over the spaghetti and combine well. Garnish with the a sliver of cheese and the chopped hazelnuts. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Apple Mint Roasted Chicken

This roasted chicken is so juicy. The meat is so tender and succulent, more so when you cut up the chicken and let it sit in the pan juices before serving it. I almost hesitate calling it a roasted chicken because the skin is so soft but if you want more of a crispy skin, just don't baste it as much. This is a nice meal to share among four people, pair the chicken with a good multi-grain bread, to dunk in the buttery sweet pan juices. A wild rice dish served on the side, along with a Waldorf salad to start and an apple pie for dessert would complete this meal. Enjoy!

  • 1 4-pound chicken
  • 1 small apple, like a Gala, cut in half
  • about 10 mint leaves, 2 left whole, the rest roughly chopped
  • 6 oz. apple juice
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon amaretto *optional
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter,cut into small pieces
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground pepper

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. With a sharp knife, cut your chicken down the breast side, along the back. Please be careful when doing this and using a sharp knife makes it easier, along with slightly pressing down on the knife. You can cut down the other side and remove the back bone and save it for stock or just include it in the baking pan. I'm sure you can always ask the butcher to do it for you, if you're hesitant. Salt and pepper the inside of the chicken and place 2 mint leaves inside the chicken cavity, around the breast area works best. Take your apple halves and place them cut side down in the roasting pan, eyeing where they will fit easily inside the chicken once you place the chicken over them. Or as I did, I fit the apples, round side in, and cut side out, in the chicken and then placed it in the pan. It sounds more complicated than it really is. You basically want the apple halves to roast inside the open chicken. One of my favorite ways to roast chicken is to put an apple inside but at the same time, I  enjoy roasting the chicken with it cut open because all of the skin gets to caramelize and brown. In a small bowl whisk the apple juice, honey and amaretto. Pour over the chicken. Into the apple juice mixture sprinkle half the mint leaves. Season your chicken with sea salt and ground pepper and top with the unsalted butter. Roast your chicken for an hour and fifteen minutes and up to an hour and a half. After about 30 minutes, baste your chicken with the juices about every 15 minutes. Try not to let any mint leaves on the skin when done basting because they will just burn. Once your chicken is done, let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes. If you are using the pan juices, remove the apple and serve along side the chicken, it's really good. Strain the juices with a fine mesh sieve and pour them back into the pan and put your chicken back in or serve the juices on the side. Sprinkle with mint leaves and serve.