Sunday, June 15, 2008

Gorgonzola, Pecan and Pear Salad

This may not be the best salad ever, but it's darn close! This salad is like a good movie: it's got drama (the gorgonzola cheese), it's a tear-jerker (the red onions), it's got action (the caramelized pecans) and, of course, it's got laughter (the dried cranberries). I highly suggest you buy all the ingredients at Henry's Marketplace (or at a Whole Foods or co-op grocery) because it's cheaper to buy the pecans and dried cranberries in bulk there. Also, I assume that in any normal household this salad would feed 6 people, but in my world, we ate the entire thing up between 4 people. Go figure!


  • 1 bag of Spring Mix salad mix
  • 3 oz. crumbled gorgonzola cheese (or more, depending on your taste)
  • 6 to 8 thin red onion slices
  • 1 Anjou or Bosc pear
  • A good handful of dried cranberries (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1/2 cup of whole pecan
  • 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Bottle of Henry's Raspberry vinaigrette or your favorite raspberry vinaigrette

In a large salad bowl, add the entire bag of spring mix. Place rings of red onion over the salad, then sprinkle the gorgonzola cheese over it. Cut the pear in slices, lengthwise, and add to salad, then add the cranberries on top of that. Set aside.

In a small non-stick skillet, add the pecans and heat on low. Keep toasting pecans on low for about 5 to 7 minutes. Raise heat to medium and add the brown sugar and butter to pecans. Let it all melt and keep toasting and cooking until all sugar is melted, about 5 more minutes. Remove from heat and let it cool slightly, then add the pecans over the entire salad and serve with the vinaigrette on the side.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Mushroom Quiche

I wanted to make Thomas Keller's Over-the-Top Mushroom Quiche but it was just too much for one person. It had almost two pounds of mushrooms! Instead, I made a simple, yet very delicious mushroom quiche (and I added a few leftover zucchini pieces I had). I used a frozen pastry shell instead of making my own crust, but that was just for a time saver. If you're not a mushroom lover, you can use other veggies such as cut up pieces of sauteed broccoli, or sauteed spinach, or even roasted asparagus pieces. Try a French Rose with this quiche.

INGREDIENTS (serves 6 - 8 people)

  • One 9" frozen pie shell **
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound baby bella mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 zucchini, sliced (OPTIONAL)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 3 large eggs
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • 1 cup Gruyère cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup good Parmesan cheese, grated

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350°F.
  2. Line pie shell with parchment paper, wax paper, or aluminum foil. Place baking weights, or rice or uncooked beans on top of pastry. Blind bake the pie shell for 10 minutes. Let cool and remove the rice or beans afterwards.
  3. In a large skillet add the olive oil and heat to medium-high. Add the onion and cook for one minute. Add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Keep cooking for another 8 minutes until mushrooms are a dark golden color.
  5. Add the zucchini, if using, and cook another 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
  6. Spread half of Gruyère cheese at bottom of pastry shell. Add the mushroom mixture on top and top with remaining Gruyère cheese.
  7. In a bowl, beat together eggs, milk, cream, nutmeg and season with a bit more salt and pepper. Pour egg mixture carefully over ingredients in pastry shell.
  8. Top with remaining Parmesan cheese.
  9. Bake at 350°F for 35-40 minutes or until set. Serve hot or cold.
    ** Side note: I forgot to blind bake my pastry shell; the quiche still came out good, but the bottom of crust was just a tiny bit soggy.

    Tuesday, June 10, 2008

    Eggs Benedict, part deux

    gorgeous eggs Benedict served with a side of blue-corn grits
    This recipe is straight out of the Lady's Home Journal magazine. YES, you heard me. Come on, I'm sure your mom or tia or grandma probably has one or two in their possession. And I know you've peeked at one at the check out counter at the Safeway. Anyhoo, this is probably the closest "original" eggs Benedict recipe out there. This one is a bit more labor intensive than my original eggs benedict post, but it is an awesome recipe to learn by heart because you never know when you'll have unexpected guests arrive at your house on a Sunday morning. PS: try "pompagne" instead of mimosas if you serve this for brunch. Pompagne is basically 2/3 champagne and 1/3 pomegranate juice. YUMMY!

    INGREDIENTS (serves 4)

    Poached eggs

    • 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 8 large eggs
    Hollandaise sauce

    • 3/4 cup butter (no substitutions), cut up
    • 3 large egg yolks
    • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • Pinch ground red pepper
    Other ingredients

    • 2 tablespoons butter, divided (no substitutions)
    • 8 slices Canadian bacon
    • 4 English muffins, split and toasted
    • 1 tablespoon water
    • Chopped fresh chives, for garnish

    Make poached eggs: Fill a large, deep skillet with water. Add vinegar and salt; cover and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat.

    Break one egg into a small cup. Carefully slip egg into gently boiling water. Repeat with remaining eggs, working in a clockwise direction. Reduce heat; simmer eggs 2 to 3 minutes, until whites are firm near the yolk. Remove with slotted spoon in same order and place in a pan of ice water. Set aside.

    Make hollandaise sauce: Place butter in a 2-cup glass measure. Cover with plastic wrap, turning back one section to vent. Microwave on High 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, until melted. In top of double boiler set above, not in, simmering water, whisk egg yolks and lemon juice until slightly thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove top only of double boiler from water. Whisking constantly, slowly drizzle a few tablespoons melted butter into yolks in a thin, steady stream. Return top of double boiler to simmering water; continue to slowly add butter, whisking constantly, until sauce thickens. Whisk in salt and red pepper. Cover and remove pan from heat. (Can be made ahead. Let stand up to 1 hour over hot water.)

    Heat oven to 200 degrees F. Heat 1 tablespoon butter in large skillet. Add bacon and cook 2 minutes per side, until lightly browned.

    Divide and spread toasted English muffin halves with remaining butter. Place halves on a cookie sheet and keep warm in oven. Return double boiler to stovetop. Whisk 1 tablespoon water into hollandaise sauce. Cover and keep sauce warm over low heat.

    To reheat poached eggs, bring same skillet filled with fresh water to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Add eggs with slotted spoon and simmer until heated through, about 1 minute.

    Arrange 2 muffin halves on each of four serving plates. Top each half with a slice of bacon. Remove eggs from simmering water with a slotted spoon, gently shaking off excess water. Place one egg over bacon; divide and spoon hollandaise sauce over each serving. Sprinkle with chives. Don't forget the pompagne!!!

    my friend Mary drinking pompagne with me in Ithaca, NY

    Saturday, June 07, 2008

    Chicken Paprikash

    Now that Matthew is back on a ship, he tends to do a lot of online shopping during his free time. During the last month I've gotten a few cooking books that he's ordered for me--all of them, of course, are Czech cooking recipe books. Although I'm still testing out the dumpling recipes, this chicken paprika recipe came out pretty good on my first try. It is absolutely essential that you use sweet Hungarian paprika and stay away from smoked paprika for this recipe. And yes, I know chicken paprika is a Hungarian dish, but it is immensely popular in the Czech Republic as well.

    INGREDIENTS (serves 4)

    • 6 chicken pieces, thighs and legs, on the bone, with skin on
    • 1 Tablespoon butter
    • 1 teaspoon olive oil
    • 1 large yellow or white onion, very thinly sliced
    • 1/4 cup sweet Hungarian paprika (absolute must. Whole Foods market or Trader Joe's has it available) .
    • 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
    • 2 cups low-sodium chicken stock (I used Wolfgang Pucks free-range chicken natural broth)
    • 1 garlic clove, minced
    • 1 large bay leaf
    • 1 to 1-1/2 cup creme fraiche or Mexican crema (use sour cream if creme fraiche not available)
    • Kosher salt & pepper
    • Fresh parsley for garnish (optional)

    Rinse and pat dry the chicken. Season generously with salt & ground black pepper.

    In a wide heavy skillet with high sides, heat the butter and olive oil over a medium high heat. Add a few of the chicken pieces, skin side down first, to the skillet and cook until golden brown on both sides, about 5 minutes per side. Cook remaining chicken this way then remove from pan and set aside.

    Add the onions to the pan and reduce heat to medium. Cook, stirring often, until the onions just begin to color, about 8 minutes. Sprinkle the paprika, flour, bay leaf and garlic over the onions.

    Cook, stirring continuously, for one minute. Add in the chicken stock to the mixture and bring to a boil, stirring continuously. Return the chicken with all accumulated juices to the pan.

    Reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover the pan and cook, turning the chicken once or twice, until the juices run clear, about 30 to 35 minutes.

    Remove the chicken to a new clean plate and pick out the bay leaf and toss it away.

    Bring sauce to a boil for 10 minutes while stirring from time to time. Turn off heat and let the sauce settle for about 5 to 10 minutes more, then skim the fat off the surface with a spoon, if any. Stir in the creme fraiche. Then return the chicken into the pan. Heat on medium-low and bring to a simmer until chicken is heated thoroughly.

    Serve chicken paprika with dumplings, or buttered noodles or spaetzle.

    Tuesday, June 03, 2008

    Chocolate Tiramisu

    Matthew and I were in NYC on Saturday and we had a slice of pizza at Ray's, which is supposed to be the best pizza in New York City. I don't know if that's true, but it did make me realize that we can't get enough Italian food, especially really good authentic Italian non-Olive Garden dishes. What I love more than a good thin crust, crispy slice of pizza is chocolate tiramisu. It's really difficult to find a good tiramisu here in San Diego. Some restaurants add too much whipped cream; others too much sugar; and some not enough Marsala wine! So the next best tiramisu is this this recipe from Giada. Our friend Leo Vargas made this delectable treat for our cooking club and it was gone before you knew it.


    • 6 ounces container mascarpone cheese
    • 2/3 cup whipping cream
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • Chocolate Zabaglione, recipe follows below
    • 2 1/2 cups espresso coffee, warmed
    • 24 crisp ladyfinger cookies (recommended: Savoiardi)
    • Unsweetened cocoa powder, for garnish
    • Dark chocolate shavings, for garnish

    Place the mascarpone cheese in a large bowl and set aside. With an electric mixer, beat the cream and 1/4 cup of the sugar in a medium bowl until soft peaks form. Fold the whipped cream into the mascarpone. Then fold in the chilled Chocolate Zabaglione. Cover and refrigerate. Whisk the warmed espresso and the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar in another medium bowl until blended. Line a 9 1/4 by 5 by 2 3/4-inch metal loaf pan with plastic wrap, allowing the plastic to extend over the sides. Working with 1 cookie at a time, dip 8 cookies into the espresso, and arrange in a single layer side by side over the bottom of the prepared pan.

    Spoon 1/3 of the mascarpone mixture over the cookies to cover. Repeat dipping 8 of the cookies in the espresso and layering the cookies and remaining mascarpone mixture 2 more times. Dip the remaining 8 cookies in the espresso and arrange side by side atop the tiramisu. Press lightly to compact slightly (the last layer will extend above the pan sides). Cover the tiramisu with plastic and refrigerate at least 6 hours.

    Unwrap the plastic from atop the tiramisu. Invert the tiramisu onto a platter. Remove the plastic. Sift the cocoa over the tiramisu, and with a vegetable peeler or sharp knife, make dark chocolate shavings and sprinkle over top.


    • 2 tablespoons whipping cream, or heavy cream
    • 1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
    • 4 large egg yolks
    • 1/3 cup sugar
    • 1/4 cup dry Marsala wine
    • Pinch salt

    Add cream and chocolate to a heavy small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the chocolate chips are melted and smooth. Set aside and keep warm. Whisk the egg yolks, sugar, Marsala, and salt in a large glass bowl until blended. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, but do not allow the bottom of the bowl to touch the water. Whisk the egg mixture over the simmering water until it is thick and creamy, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat.

    Using a large rubber spatula, fold the melted chocolate mixture into the egg mixture. Cover and refrigerate to chill completely.

    Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis, Everyday Italian