Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Cottage Cheese Bread

I made Kay's famous Dill Seed Bread for Christmas and it came out fantastic. So, I wanted to try to make a similar bread, but without the dill seed. This recipe is as simple as they get. I love it because the cottage cheese gives the bread a very soft texture and feel and you can use it for sandwiches or toast it and slather some honey-butter on it. Yum! I think my husband and I might have a bread bake-off when he comes home because I'm getting pretty good a baking. Next time: sourdough bread...oooh!


  • 1 package dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 1/2 cups sifted flour, plus more for dusting
  • Artisan Bread Topping (optional)

Dissolve yeast in warm water.

In a small sauce pan, heat butter and cottage cheese until warm and butter is melted; add sugar, salt, soda and egg. Mix well and blend in yeast mixture.

In a large bowl add the flour and the cottage cheese mixture and mix well. Turn out onto a floured board or surface and knead until smooth and not very sticky, about 10 minutes (you may need to add a little more flour, if needed).

Place dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a cloth or loosely plastic wrap and put it in a warm, draft free place and let rise until doubled, about an hour.

Punch down dough, knead briefly and shape into two loaves. Place loaves in greased 9x5x3 inch pans, cover and let double again--I placed my loaves on bread couches.

Just before baking, score the tops of bread and lightly spritz with water. At this point you can top with a little kosher salt or an artisan bread topping mix (I used King Arthur's).

Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes...but check after 25 minutes. Let bread cool completely before serving.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Grilled Lamb Kabobs over Israeli Couscous and Broiled Tomatoes

Well, if you're like me, I'm sure you've had your fill of ham and turkey and green beans and potatoes and tamales this holiday season...and although I love these types of holiday foods, I am getting a little sick of it. So what can we cook that is a little different? Lamb, of course! If you're not a lamb lover, you can make this recipe with beef, but the flavor will not be the same. Yes, lamb can be a little gamy sometimes, but if you marinate it properly and cook it to a medium-rare to medium, you just might be surprised how good this stuff can be. Don't forget to serve with warm pita bread and a cucumber-yogurt sauce on the side. Enjoy, my friends!


Israeli Couscous

  • 3/4 cup Israeli couscous
  • 1 3/4 cups chicken broth
  • Olive Oil
  • Fresh lemon juice
Broiled Tomatoes
  • 4 Beefsteak tomatoes
  • Fresh mozzarella cheese
  • Salt and pepper
  • Chopped fresh mint (optional)
Lamb Kabobs
  • 2 lbs lamb fillet, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 2 red onions
    • Marinade ingredients:
    • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
    • 1/2 cup olive oil
    • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
    • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
    • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
    • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
    • A generous pinch of ground red pepper or cayenne

Lamb Kabob: Combine marinade ingredients and pour into large Ziploc bag. Place lamb cubes in marinade and refrigerate 4 hours, preferably overnight. Be sure all pieces of lamb are covered with marinade.

Cut onions into 1 inch chunks. Set aside.

I like to use metal skewers, but if you're using bamboo skewers, make sure you soak them in water for 30 or more minutes. Lightly spray a light coat of cooking oil on skewers to prevent sticking. Thread a piece lamb followed by a piece of onion on skewers. Cook lamb kabobs on a grill pan or outdoor grill for about 4-5 minutes on each side or until desired doneness.

Israeli Couscous: Place the couscous in a medium saucepan along with the broth. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. When tender, remove from the heat and drain any excess broth. Drizzle a little olive oil and a little lemon juice over couscous. Add more salt, if needed. Set aside.

Broiled Tomatoes: Pre-heat broiler. Cut beefsteak tomatoes into 1/2" thick slices. Place slices on a greased baking sheet and sprinkle a little salt and fresh ground black pepper over tomatoes. Next, slice fresh mozzarella and place one slice over each tomato slice.

Place tomatoes under broiler for 3 to 5 minutes (make sure you watch them) and immediately remove as soon as cheese melts and it's lightly browned. Drizzle a little more olive oil over tomatoes.

To plate: divide couscous among 4 plates. Place one or two lamb skewers over couscous, and serve a couple of the grilled tomatoes next to it. Sprinkle a little finely chopped mint over skewers, optional. Don't forget to serve some warm pita bread and cucumber-yogurt sauce on the side.

    Saturday, December 27, 2008

    Original NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Chocolate Chip Cookies

    During the holidays, I watched a lot of cooking shows on TV because I wanted to learn something new about holiday desserts. I'm not a good baker whatsoever, so I figured I should start learning about how to bake cookies first. And after several shows, some of the cookies they were making were a little elaborate for me. So my husband told me, "why don't you just make chocolate chip cookies?" So this is the original TOLL HOUSE® recipe, which is tried and true and if you follow the directions exactly, you will always have perfect chocolate chip cookies.

    INGREDIENTS (makes a butt load of cookies...like 60)

    • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
    • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
    • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 2 large eggs
    • 2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
    • 1 cup chopped nuts, I used pecans that I lightly toasted

    PREHEAT oven to 375° F.

    COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

    BAKE for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

    Get a glass of milk and enjoy!

    Tuesday, December 23, 2008

    Pan-Seared Salmon with Red Bell Pepper Chutney

    Since I've been creating all these fish dishes for the feast of the seven fishes, I've been craving my favorite fish: ahi tuna. Unfortunately, it's not available at my local grocery store because the price has sky rocketed. So, I was thinking about the incredible blackened tuna with five pepper sauce that Matt introduced me to back in Virginia. I wanted to do something similar but this time with salmon and spicy chutney. And after figuring out how to make a sweet/sour/spicy red bell pepper chutney, I put this dish together and, my darling, it was good and slightly spicy!


    Chutney (Makes 1 cup. You can make this a couple of days before and refrigerate)

    • 1 teaspoon olive oil
    • 1/8 tsp ground coriander
    • 1/8 tsp allspice
    • 1/4 tsp curry powder
    • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
    • A healthy pinch (about a heaping teaspoon) of red pepper flakes
    • Ground, black pepper
    • Kosher salt
    • 1 medium red onion, chopped
    • 2 medium red bell peppers, seeded and chopped
    • Handful of raisins
    • 1/4 cup orange juice
    • 1/4 cup fig vinegar (or balsamic vinegar)
    • 1 tsp pomegranate molasses
    • 1 tablespoon of brown sugar
    • 4 Salmon fillets, with skin on and about 1/2" thick
    • Salt & pepper
    • Olive oil
    • 1 Tablespoons dry white wine
    • Mashed potatoes

    In a sauce pan, heat olive oil on medium and add coriander, allspice, curry powder and cumin and cook spices for one minute. Next add the onions and red pepper flakes and sweat for 5 minutes. Add a pinch of salt and several grinds of ground black pepper.

    Add the red bell peppers and raise heat to medium-high. Sauté for 5 minutes more. Add the raisins, orange juice, vinegar, pomegranate molasses and brown sugar. Add more grinds of black pepper and more salt, if needed, and bring to a boil. Boil for a couple of minutes, then lower heat to simmer, covered, for 30, then uncovered for 30 more minutes, or until chutney thickens and most liquid is absorbed. If not using chutney right away, refrigerate. You can also use this chutney on pork or chicken.

    For the salmon: Salt and pepper both sides of salmon fillets. Heat a large non-stick pan (large enough to fit all fillets) on medium-high and add enough olive oil to lightly cover the bottom of pan. When oil begins to lightly smoke, place the fillets skin side down. Cook for 3 minutes. Gently turn over and cook for one minute. Remove from pan. If you're not a salmon skin lover, you can remove the skin at this point.

    In the same pan add 1/2 cup of your chutney and a one tablespoon of white wine or water. Bring to a boil. Place the fillets flesh side down over the chutney and simmer for one additional minute.

    To serve: Place the salmon over mashed potatoes (I used spinach fettuccini that I lightly dressed with a little olive oil and salt and pepper--I forgot to buy potatoes) then spoon some of the chutney over the salmon and serve.

    Sunday, December 21, 2008

    Marinated Swordfish with Corn Succotash and Mashed Sweet Potatoes

    About a year or so ago, my brother-in-law, Michael, came to visit us and we took him to The Prado restaurant, which is our favorite restaurant here in San Diego. The meal was memorable, to say the least. I think both Michael and my husband had the osso bucco and I had a fish plate. I don't remember what it was called, but it was one of my favorite dishes from the restaurant. I tried to recreate the dish, but I was always off on some seasoning or spices. Finally, I decided to just go simple and classic, and guess what? My dish came out superb, and almost JUST almost as good as the entree at The Prado. So, to go with my theme of the feast of the seven fishes, this is an incredible dish, however it does have many steps and it will take you several hours...but if you have time, give it a try. This is also a great dish to impress your friends or impress your special someone.

    INGREDIENTS (serves 4)

    • 4 Swordfish steaks, about 3/4" thick each and 6 to 8 ounces each
    • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • 3 Tablespoons butter
    • Extra-virgin olive oil
    • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
    • 3 Tablespoon dry white vermouth or white wine
    • 1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
    • 1/4 cup heavy cream
    • Pinch of nutmeg
    • 1 Tablespoons brown sugar
    • 8 ounces (about 2 cups) frozen corn, thawed
    • 8 ounces (about 2 cups) frozen green beans, thawed (you can substitute with lima beans, if you prefer)
    • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
    • 1 medium red onion, finely chopped
    • 2 plum tomatoes, diced
    • 2 garlic cloves, minced
    • 1 Tablespoon finely minced chives

    Swordfish Steaks:

    Rinse swordfish steaks and pat them dry. Lightly brush steaks with olive oil. Generously season steaks with salt and pepper and sprinkle rosemary over them. Meanwhile, add 3 tablespoons olive oil, 3 tablespoons vermouth and 1 tablespoon lemon juice in a large Ziploc bag, and then add the steaks. Close bag, making sure to squeeze out all the air and let the swordfish marinate for 30 minutes to 1 hour in the refrigerator, turning once or twice so that it marinates evenly. Cook your sweet potatoes while fish marinates. You can also start prepping for the succotash.

    To cook the fish, (start cooking it when potatoes are done and you're almost done with the succotash) preheat the broiler. Place fish on broiler pan. Broil until fish is opaque is center, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer to platter.

    Sweet potatoes:

    Fill a large pot with cold water and add the cut sweet potatoes and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, for 15 to 20 minutes, or until potatoes are cooked through and are fork tender. Drain, but add back to same pot (for less mess). Add 2 tablespoons butter, 1/4 cup cream, salt and pepper, a pinch of nutmeg and 1 tablespoon brown sugar. Mash the potatoes until you get a creamy consistency. Add more butter or cream, if needed.


    In a large skillet over medium-high heat add 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter. Add the onion and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the red bell pepper and garlic and sauté 4 more minutes. Next add corn, tomatoes, and green beans (or lima beans) and season with salt and go heavy on the ground black pepper. Keep sautéing until green beans are cooked through and all veggies are softened, about 8 more minutes.

    To Assemble:

    Get your 4 nicest plates out, and first place a heaping dollop of mashed sweet potatoes in the middle of each plate. Gently place one swordfish steak on top of each, and then place some of the succotash around the mashed sweet potatoes. Top each steak with a little of remaining succotash and sprinkle minced chives over each plate. Serve immediately and let the compliments flow!

    Friday, December 19, 2008

    Braised Swordfish, Puerto Rican Style

    I'm calling this recipe "Puerto Rican Style" because it seems that every time my mom makes Puerto Rican food (my step-dad is Boriqua), she uses the same sauce components: onions, bell pepper, tomatoes and green olives...and Puerto Ricans love their green olives! This is a very simple, yet quite flavorful tomato-base sauce for the fish and steamed rice goes superb as a side. Make sure the skillet you use has a tight fitting lid for it. And since I'm going with the feast of the seven fishes theme for Christmas, this is another good and easy recipe in case you're contemplating eating seafood for the holiday.

    INGREDIENTS (serves 2)

    • Olive oil
    • Kosher salt
    • Fresh ground black pepper
    • 2 Swordfish steaks, skin and bones removed, about 3/4" thick and 4 to 5 ounces each
    • 1 white onion, sliced into half moons
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 bay leaf
    • 2 Plum tomatoes, chopped
    • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
    • 1 (8oz) can tomato sauce
    • 1/4 cup white wine
    • 1/4 cup water
    • Juice of half of a lime
    • Handful of Goya green olives, pitted and cut into rounds
    • A few tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley

    Salt and pepper your swordfish steaks and set aside.

    Heat a large skillet on medium heat and add 1 tablespoon olive oil and sweat the onion and garlic for 5 to 8 minutes.

    Raise heat to medium-high and add chopped tomatoes, diced green bell pepper, bay leaf and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and a few grinds of black pepper, wine, water, tomato sauce, lime juice and olives and bring to a simmer. Simmer gently for another 10 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper, if needed.

    Add your swordfish steaks to the sauce, slightly submerging them into the sauce and cover and simmer until fish is opaque throughout, about 8 to 10 minutes. (I gently turned my swordfish steaks over after 5 minutes--but you don't have to).

    Before serving, remove bay leaf. Serve fish with some of the tomato sauce and sprinkle some chopped parsley over it.

    PS: You can also use this braising sauce to braise shrimp, or flounder or cod, or even lobster tails!

    Wednesday, December 17, 2008

    Grilled Baja-Style Spiny Lobster

    Okay, I know it's almost Christmas and you're wondering, "why would I eat lobster during the holiday season?" But believe me, seafood is quite the popular dish during the holidays, especially for Italian families. When I lived in Boston I used to attend Chuck & Sheila's (who are of Italian descent) annual Christmas party and I looked forward to their celebration of the 7 fishes. I still don't quite understand where that tradition came from, but this recipe is quite good because it's easy and, come on, who doesn't like lobster? Basically we cook our lobster in Baja California like this all the time and I'm pretty sure you can try this with Maine lobster (I haven't yet), but just make sure you use kitchen shears or a cleaver to cut the tails in half. Lightly char green onions alongside the tails on the grill. Serve with ice-cold Mexican beer, but champagne works too!

    INGREDIENTS (serves 6)


    • 6 (8-ounce) rock or spiny lobster tails
    • 12 green onions
    • Cooking spray
    • 1 tablespoon grated orange rind
    • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
    • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • Dash of hot sauce
    • 1 garlic clove, minced
    • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
    • Flour tortillas
    • Mexican rice and beans, baby!
    1. Preheat grill.
    2. To prepare lobster, cut each lobster tail in half lengthwise. Coat lobster tails and onions with cooking spray. Place lobster tails, cut sides down, on grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 3 minutes. Turn lobster; grill 5 minutes. Place onions on grill rack; grill 3 minutes or until tender.
    3. To prepare sauce, combine rind and next 7 ingredients (through garlic) in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Gradually add butter, stirring constantly with a whisk. Drizzle sauce over cut sides of lobster tails.
    4. Warm the tortillas and serve with lobster and lime wedges, if desired, and the rice and beans on the side. Happy Holidays!

    Monday, December 15, 2008


    What exactly is a kolache (or kolachky)? It is a slightly sweet, yeasted roll with filling. It has Czech/Croatian roots, and if it wasn't for my in-laws (and my husband), I would have never known these sweet treats existed. The most popular filling (I'm told) is poppyseed filling, but other favorite fillings are apricot and cottage-cheese filling. I did try to make "faux-laches" last year, but they do not compare to these delightful breads. The poppy seed filling was purchased from the bakery in Lonsdale, Minnesota, but I've seen poppy seed filling cans available at specialty stores, like Sur la Table and I think you may find it at Michael's, too. Anyhoo, my mother-in-law made these kolaches and all I did was take pictures. Your house will smell wonderful once you get these gems baking. Oh, and this recipe makes about a gazillion, so I recommend you try different fillings.


    • 1 Tablespoon sugar
    • 2 Packages of yeast
    • 1/2 Cup warm water (105 - 115 degrees)
    • 2 Cups milk
    • 1/2 Cup plus 2 tablespoons shortening
    • 2 Teaspoons salt
    • 2 Egg yolks
    • 1/2 Cup sugar
    • 6 1/4 Cups flour, sifted (preferable bread flour)
    • 1 1/2 Sticks of melted butter
    • Poppy seed, apricot or cottage cheese filling (or all three!)

    Sprinkle 1 tablespoon sugar over the yeast and dissolve in lukewarm water. Set aside to rise.

    Heat the milk in a small saucepan; add the shortening to dissolve. Allow to cool to lukewarm; then add salt, slightly-beaten egg yolks, and sugar. It is only necessary to heat the milk until the shortening melts.

    Combine milk-egg mixture and yeast mixture. Add flour gradually and work dough by hand or with a mixer until glossy. Keep it a little sticky, if at all possible.

    About the first three cups of flour can be added in the beginning. Stir with a wooden spoon until too heavy to handle. Gather dough together with clean, floured hands, and knead. If the dough sticks to your hands or the surface, a little more flour is needed. Add flour by putting a slightly thicker coat on hands and surface. Continue to knead until the dough acquires a sheen.

    Cover, place in a warm, draft-free place, and let rise until double in bulk, about 45 minutes to an hour.

    After the dough has risen, punch down the dough, and lightly knead. Divide into 4 parts. Roll out one part to about 12"x6" rectangle and cut into 3"x3" pieces. Place about a heaping tablespoon of filling into each square and gather each corner in the middle, pinching well (see picture below).

    Place kolaches in buttered pans, then place pans of kolache in a warm, draft free place, and allow to double in bulk again, about 45 minutes to one hour.

    Place in an oven preheated to 375 degrees. Bake until golden brown, about 20 to 30 minutes.

    Remove the kolaches from the oven and slather with melted butter (optional). Cool slightly, remove from pans, and cool on wire racks. Recipe makes 3 to 4 dozen.

    Tuesday, December 09, 2008

    Making Homemade Sweet Spanish Sausage

    My father-in-law taught me how to make homemade sausage. Although the entire process took longer than I expected, it was quite fun and it was great working with new ingredients such as the natural pork casings. Also, you don't have to soak the raisins in brandy, but we did. You will need some Irish whiskey and red wine to assist you in the process.

    Below is the recipe for one pound of pork. We made 8 pounds, so just multiply the recipe accordingly. And if you don't want to make links and/or use pork casings, you can just make sausage patties instead. Cheers!


    • 1 pound pork shoulder, cut into pieces that will fit your grinder, and place in freezer for 15 to 20 minutes
    • 1/2 Tablespoon kosher salt
    • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
    • 1/8 teaspoon mustard powder
    • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
    • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
    • 1 garlic clove, finely minced
    • 3 Tablespoons golden raisins, soaked in brandy
    • 1/8 teaspoon sugar
    • 1 package of natural pork casings
    1. Take a swig of some fine Irish whiskey. In a meat grinder, grind the pork.
    2. Meanwhile, have someone (like your daughter-in-law) soak the casings in warm water, then run some water through the intestines to clean them out from the inside. You can use synthetic casings, but what's the fun in that. Take another swig.
    3. In a mortar and pestle add all the spice ingredients, except the garlic, and grind, grind, grind.
    4. Open a bottle of red wine.
    5. To the ground pork add all the raisins, garlic and the spice seasonings and mix well to combine.
    6. Pour two glasses of wine, one for you and one for your assistant; now you're ready to get dirty.
    7. Place one of the casings on the mean grinder tube attachment or on the attachment on your piston stuffer and scrunch it, or follow your manufacturer's directions.
    8. Fill the grinder or hand-cranked piston with some of the sausage mix and start stuffing. Drink a little more wine, and continue stuffing. You don't have to twist the ends of the casings, btw.
    9. As you stuff, make sure you, or your assistant, curl the sausage or even twist it every 6 inches or so.
    10. Continue stuffing the casings until you finish up all the mixture. Chill the sausage (or place in freezer). Drink the rest of the wine.
    11. You've done it! You’ve just made homemade sausage. It's time to open a bottle of champagne to celebrate!

    Sunday, December 07, 2008

    Sopa de Queso (Mexican Cheese Soup)

    Not all cheese soups are the same. This cheese soup doesn't have the creamy nacho cheese-like consistancy, and it's actually quite interesting because the cheese you use doesn't really melt all the way, so you actually get real chunks of cheese with this soup. I used Juustoleipa cheese, which is a Finnish cheese I bought in Minnesota, but I recommend Cotija cheese. Since both these cheeses are salty, you don't need to add salt to the soup. Also, you can take some shortcuts, for example you can use canned mild diced green chiles instead of charring them like I did. And you can use chicken stock instead of chicken boullion and the water. But, this is the way my mom taught me how to make it and it's really good, especially on a cold Sunday evening and you're coming down with something. If you accompany this soup with a nice, super strong hot toddy, you will definitely be cured!

    INGREDIENTS (serves 2)

    • 2 large Anaheim chiles
    • 1 large potato, peeled and cut into a dice
    • 2 Tablespoons chopped onion
    • 1/2 cube chicken bouillon, preferably Knorr
    • 1 clove garlic, peeled
    • Water
    • 1 large tomato, diced
    • A few sprigs of fresh cilantro
    • 4 ounces Cotija Cheese or Juustoleipa cheese, cut into bite-sized cubes

    Roast the Aneheims over a flame or under the broiler, until skins are charred. Place in a plastic bag, or container and let it steam for 10 minutes. Peel off charred skin; remove seeds and ribs and chop into a small dice. Set aside.

    In a medium stock pan add 1 teaspoon olive oil and add onions. Saute on medium-high for one minute. Add the diced potato and saute another minute. Add the chicken boullion and the garlic and 4 cups cold water. Bring to a boil then lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

    Add the diced tomato, diced green chiles and continue simmering until potatoes are tender, about 5 to 8 more minutes, but not falling apart. Add the cheese and cilantro and cook another 5 minutes; remove soup from heat. Just before serving, remove the garlic and serve soup with warm corn tortillas. Ummmm....

    Friday, December 05, 2008

    Salmon Croquettes with Remoulade

    I had such a fabulous time in San Francisco because I hung out with my girlfriends who are also foodies like me! We visited the farmer's market by the marina, ate at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, and ate a great lunch in Sonoma. I can not remember the name of the restaurant, but I had a very good salmon croquette there. The panko breadcrumbs are a must for this recipe. Yum.... Don't forget to pair with a nice, crips white Sonoma wine or even a rose!

    INGREDIENTS (makes 8)

    For the remoulade:

    • 1/3 cup plain fat-free yogurt
    • 1 1/2 tablespoons low-fat mayonnaise
    • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley
    • 2 teaspoons whole-grain Dijon mustard
    • 1 teaspoon capers
    • 1/4 teaspoon dried tarragon
    • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • Dash of hot pepper sauce
    For the croquettes:
    • 1/3 cup plain fat-free yogurt
    • 1 tablespoon whole-grain Dijon mustard
    • 2 large egg whites
    • Cooking spray
    • 1/2 cup chopped onion
    • 1/2 cup chopped celery
    • 1 cup panko breadcrubms, divided
    • 2 6-ounce cans pink salmon, skinless, boneless and drained
    • 4 teaspoons butter

    To prepare remoulade, combine first 9 ingredients in a bowl; cover and chill.

    To prepare croquettes, combine 1/3 cup yogurt, 1 tablespoon mustard and egg whites in a bowl. Set aside.

    Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add onions and celery; cook 4 minutes or until tender. Cool slightly.

    Combine onion mixture, yogurt mixture, 1/2 cup panko, tarragon, pepper and salmon in a bowl; toss gently. Cover and chill 10 minutes.

    Divide salmon mixture into 8 equal portions, shaping each into a 1/2-inch-thick patty. Coat patties evenly with 1/2 cup remaining panko. Cover and chill 20 minutes.

    Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heats. Add patties; reduce heat to medium. Cook 4 minutes on each side or until lightly browned.

    To serve,place some remoulade sauce on a plate, place a croquette (or two) over it, then top croquette with a mix of baby-greens salad.

    Tuesday, December 02, 2008

    Peanut Butter Soup

    I was in Minnesota this past week visiting my in-laws and my father-in-law, Jim, taught me this incredibly easy yet quite tasty soup. I personally have never heard of "peanut butter soup" so I was intrigued to learn the recipe. Apparently, this is a take on an old Mennonite recipe, but the soup definitely has some West African origins. You can use any hearty veggies you want, and you can also add cooked rice (we didn't) to make it a bit heartier. Top the soup with a garnish of chopped roasted peanuts and don't forget to serve the slices of lime with it.


    • 1 tablespoon butter
    • 4 to 5 celery stalks and its leaves, diced
    • 3 to 4 carrots, peeled and diced
    • 1 large white onion, cut into a small dice
    • 1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
    • 1/4 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
    • 5 to 6 asparagus stalks, cut into 1/4" pieces
    • I box of white mushrooms, cleaned and cut into a dice
    • 1 can (49 oz.) Swanson® chicken broth, low sodium
    • 3/4 to 1 cup creamy or chunky peanut butter (natural organic peanut butter, if possible)
    • Salt, to taste
    • Cut limes, for garnish
    • Roated peanuts, for garnish
    • Sriracha hot sauce (optional)

    In a large stock pot heat the butter on medium heat. Add the celery, carrots and onions and sweat for 8 minutes. Raise heat to medium-high and add the vinegar, asparagus, and mushrooms and fresh ground black pepper and saute another 5 minutes, until veggies are softened. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer 4 more minutes. Add a little bit of the hot broth to the peanut butter to thin out and temper, then add it to the soup and mix to combine well. Taste for seasoning and add salt, if needed.

    To serve soup, laddle into bowls and sprinkle a little of the roasted peanuts on top. We put a little sriracha hot sauce and squeezes of lime juice on ours. It was crazy good.

    Monday, November 24, 2008

    Roquefort Grapes

    I attended a Waterford Crystal event at Macy's last week and Chef Bernard from the Marine Room made the appetizers for the event. This particular one was a hit. It's so simple, yet very elegant especially if you serve it on your most expensive Waterford crystal. The version that Chef Bernard made was made with goat cheese instead of Roquefort, so you can change it up if you like. These would make excellent hors d' oeuvres at a cocktail party.

    INGREDIENTS (makes 30 grapes)

    • 30 large red or green seedless grapes
    • 2/3 cup cream cheese
    • ½ cup Roquefort cheese or your favorite blue cheese
    • 1 cup crushed, toasted walnuts

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).

    Place walnuts in a single layer on a medium baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned.

    In a food processor, coarsely chop toasted walnuts. Transfer to a medium bowl.

    Wash grapes well. Pat dry. Combine cream cheese and Roquefort in mixing bowl until smooth.

    Coat each grape with cheese mixture.

    Roll each grape in the chopped walnuts. Place on wax paper and chill in the refrigerator until serving.

    Thursday, November 20, 2008

    Seared Scallops with Sweet Potato Gnocchi

    A few weeks ago I made a sweet potato pie and I had some leftover mashed sweet potatoes. So, instead of throwing the leftover potatoes away, I made these lovely sweet potato gnocchi. They are so delish, and billowy and sweet, but not too sweet, and I thought "what can I pair them with?" And the first thing that came to mind were sweet, fresh scallops. Try to get the larger scallops, if possible, and try to get each about the same size. I added dried cranberries at the last minute to the brown butter-sage sauce (recipe follows), but this is entirely optional. I just wanted to give it some nice color and contrast of flavor...and it was SO GOOD!

    INGREDIENTS (makes about 24 gnocchi)

    • 1 1/2 cups of mashed sweet potatoes
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    • 1 egg
    • 1 to 2 cups flour

    Place the mashed sweet potatoes in a bowl and blend in the salt, nutmeg, and egg. Mix in the flour a little at a time until you have soft dough. Use more or less flour as needed.

    Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. While you wait for the water, make the gnocchi. On a floured surface, roll the dough out in several long snakes, and cut into 1-inch sections. Pass through a gnocchi press or roll over a fork.

    Drop the pieces into the boiling water, and allow them to cook until they float to the surface. Remove the floating pieces with a slotted spoon, and keep warm in a serving dish. Serve with seared scallops and sage butter sauce.

    Note: you can freeze the uncooked gnocchi, if you have any left. Cook them for 5 to 6 minutes in boiling water.

    Seared Scallops

    INGREDIENTS (serves 4)

    • 8 large sea scallops
    • Clarified butter or ghee
    • Vegetable oil
    • Kosher salt
    • Fresh ground black pepper

    Most scallops you buy at the store have been soaked in a liquid solution that keeps them looking white. So you'll need to drain and rinse them thoroughly, then pat them dry with paper towels before seasoning them. Make sure they are as dry as you can get them. Season scallops with salt and pepper.

    Heat a nonstick sauté pan over high heat and add a tablespoon of clarified butter or ghee and 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil. The butter/oil needs to be very hot before you add the scallops. You want to see just a little bit of smoke.

    Place 4 scallops in the pan (you need to cook in batches so pan does not get overcrowded) and don't touch them! I know you'll be tempted to move them, but believe me it'll be worth it if you don’t. Be strong!

    Wait two minutes, and then check the bottom of scallop to see that they have a nice caramel-colored crust, and then flip them over. Depending on how thick your scallops are, you want to cook for another minute to two minutes, but no more than 3. Remove scallops and tent with foil and finish cooking the rest. Serve immediately with the gnocchi and brown butter-sage sauce.

    Brown Butter-Sage Sauce


    • 2 tablespoons butter
    • 6 fresh sage leaves, chiffonade
    • 2 heaping tablespoons of pine nuts
    • Pinch of brown sugar

    With a paper towel, wipe the same pan you cooked your scallops in add the butter and melt on medium heat, bordering on medium-high. Add the sage leaves and pine nuts. Keep turning the pan so that everything gets coated. Keep cooking until butter begins to foam a little and it starts to turn slightly brown. At this point, add the brown sugar and keep cooking and stirring until sugar melts. Remove from heat immediately and drizzle some of this sauce over gnocchi and scallops.

    You can also serve the gnocchi with the brown butter sauce sans the scallops and it makes a great lunch!

    Monday, November 17, 2008

    Chiles en Crema

    If you're adventurous and you like Mexican or Latin food, then this recipe may be up your alley. This is a great side dish and believe it or not, it goes great with turkey or chicken. My mom made this dish for Thanksgiving a couple of years ago and it's been a hit every since. She gave me the recipe last week and I recreated it last night. I used 3 very large Poblano peppers, which is just enough to feed 3 to 4 people. This is a super easy, low maintenance recipe and you only need 5 ingredients. The pomegranate seeds are not required, I just added them to make my plate look pretty.

    INGREDIENTS (serves 4)

    • 4 large fresh Poblano pepper, charred and peeled and seeded
    • 1 white onion, cut into half moons
    • 1 teaspoon olive oil
    • 2/3 cup crema (you can find crema Mexicana in most grocery stores in the refrigerated section)
    • 2/3 cup grated Cotija cheese + more for sprinkling
    • salt

    Char the pepper over your stove top or under your broiler. Once they are nicely charred, place them in a plastic bag and seal it. Wait 10 minutes, and then peel off charred skin. Remove stem and seeds inside. Chop up the pepper in a rough chop. Set aside.

    In a skillet heat the tablespoon of olive oil on medium. Add the onions and 1/4 teaspoon salt and sweat for about 10 minutes. Raise temperature to medium-high and sauté another 2 minutes. Add the chopped up peppers and let sauté a couple of minutes more, until everything gets nice and hot.

    Lower heat to medium again and add the crema and cotija cheese. With a spatula, fold in all the ingredients until it all gets nicely mixed. Let it come to a light simmer (but don't boil), then remove from heat. You can serve immediately, or sprinkle a little more cotija on top and place the skillet (it has to be oven proof) under the broiler and let it broil for 5 to 8 minutes or until top gets bubbly and toasty. How easy was that?

    Sunday, November 16, 2008

    Spaghetti and Meatballs, Part Deux

    You know, I'm kind of digging Chef Anne Burrell. She has a new show on the Food Network and she's very down to earth, funny, her food is fabulous and she seems to have ADD, but it works for her. She made this homemade meatballs and marinara sauce on her last show and I just couldn't believe how simple and easy she made it seemed. So, of course, I had to try it, and yes, it was easy. It was simple. It's true what your mom says: sometimes the best food comes from the simplest ingredients. Anyway, if you plan to make this recipe, I suggest your start early because the marinara does need to simmer a few hours. Don't forget the Chianti, because spaghetti and meatballs begs for it!

    INGREDIENTS (makes 18 - 20 meatballs)

    • Extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1 large onion, 1/4-inch dice
    • Salt
    • 2 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
    • Pinch crushed red pepper
    • 1/2 pound ground beef
    • 1/2 pound ground veal
    • 1/2 pound ground pork
    • 2 large eggs
    • 1 cup grated Parmigiano
    • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
    • 1 cup breadcrumbs
    • 1/2 cup water
    • Marinara Sauce, recipe follows

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

    Coat a large sauté pan with olive oil, about 1 tablespoon, add the onions and bring to a medium-high heat. Season the onions generously with salt and cook for about 5 to 7 minutes. The onions should be very soft and aromatic but have no color. Add the garlic and the crushed red pepper and sauté for another 1 to 2 minutes. Turn off heat and allow to cool.

    In a large bowl combine the meats, eggs, Parmigiano, parsley and bread crumbs. It works well to squish the mixture with your hands. Add the onion mixture and season generously with salt and squish some more. Add the water and do one final really good squish. The mixture should be quite wet. Test the seasoning of the mix by making a mini hamburger size patty and cooking it. The mixture should taste really good! If it doesn't it is probably missing salt. Add more. Add more anyway.

    Shape the meat into desired size. Some people like 'em big some people like 'em small. I prefer meatballs slightly larger than a golf ball. Coat a large sauté pan with olive oil and bring to a medium-high heat. Brown the meatballs on all sides. Place them on a cookie sheet and bake them in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked all the way through. Add them to your big pot of marinara sauce. If not using right away, they can be frozen for later use. Serve with pasta and sauce or just eat them straight out of the pot!

    Marinara Sauce (makes 2 quarts)

    • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1/4 pound diced pancetta
    • 2 large Spanish onions, cut into 1/4-inch dice
    • Kosher salt
    • 1 Bay leaves
    • 4 large garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
    • 4 (28-ounce) cans Italian plum San Marzano tomatoes

    Coat a large saucepot with olive oil and add the pancetta. Bring the pot to a medium-high heat and cook the pancetta for 4 to 5 minutes. Add the onions, season generously with salt and stir to coat with olive oil. Cook the onions for 6 to 7 minutes stirring frequently. The onions should become very soft and aromatic but have no color. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes stirring frequently.

    Pass the tomatoes through the food mill. Be sure to pass all of the pulp through the holes leaving only the stems and the seeds, and be sure to scrape the pulp off of the bottom of the food mill. That's all of the big money stuff! Add the tomatoes to the pot and rinse out 1 of the empty tomato cans with water and add that water to the pot (about 2 to 3 cups). Add the bay leaf. Season generously with salt and TASTE IT!!!! Tomatoes take a lot of salt. Season in baby steps and taste every step of the way. Cook the sauce for 2 to 3 hours, stirring occasionally and tasting frequently.

    Use the sauce right away on pasta or for any other tomato sauce need. This sauce can also be cooled and stored in the refrigerator for a few days and freezes really well.

    Recipe courtesy Anne Burrell