Favorite Thanksgiving Recipes


Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is rapidly approaching, one of my favorite holidays of the year. Celebrating thanks with friends and family around the table with a feast of delicious food – it doesn’t get any better. There’s so much for me to be thankful for: my health, my job, my friends, family and loved ones, the roof over my head, the amazing places I have traveled to and the people and things I have experienced along the way, and the mere fact that every day is a new adventure, with hopefully many more to come.

Throughout the years I have collected my favorite recipes from my family, friends and cookbooks, as well as created a few of my own. I want to share these with you to enjoy just as I have, wishing all my readers a delicious holiday filled with thanks this year..Enjoy and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Pumpkin Soup with Blue Cheese Toasts

1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1 tbsp minced shallots
3 1/2 cups canned pumpkin puree
2 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups water
4 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 small baguette, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
blue cheese crumbles

In a large saucepan, melt butter. Add onions, celery, carrots and shallots. Saute over moderate heat until onions become transparent. Add canned pumpkin, broth and water. Cook until vegetables are tender. Remove from heat and puree the mixture in a blender or processor. Return the mixture to saucepan, add chopped thyme and cream. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Reheat over low heat until hot, do not boil. Place baguette slices on baking sheet and broil until golden brown and crisp. Remove from oven and sprinkle the toasts generously with blue cheese crumbles. Serve soup with toasts floating on top as garnish.

Serves 4-6.

Recipe from Whole Foods Market

Orange-Romaine Salad with Walnuts and Bacon

1 (10 oz.) package of chopped romaine lettuce
6 green onions, sliced
2 oranges, peeled and sectioned
1/4 c. walnut pieces or pine nuts (lightly toasted)
4 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled

Orange Vinaigrette
1/3 cup of red wine vinaigrette
1/3 cup of fresh orange juice (from 1 orange)
2 tsp sugar or sweetener

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread nuts in an even layer onto a baking sheet and roast for approx. 15 mins until golden brown. Set aside.

Preheat a saute pan and cook bacon until crispy, crumble and set aside.

Slice green onions, and peel and section oranges.

To make orange vinaigrette, whisk together red wine vinaigrette, fresh orange juice and sugar.

Toss together all ingredients, top with crumbled bacon and toasted nuts.

Serves 8.

Butternut Squash Puree

3 butternut squash, halved and seeded
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
6 small shallots, halved
4 tablespoons orange blossom honey
6 sprigs fresh thyme
pinch of ground cinnamon
6 tablespoons unsalted butter

Heat oven to 400° F. Place the squash skin down onto a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil. Season with the salt and pepper and top with the shallots, honey, thyme, pinch of cinnamon and butter.

Cover the squash with foil. Roast until softened, 45 to 60 minutes. Uncover and set aside until cool enough to handle. Working in batches, scoop some of the softened squash and shallots from the peels into a mixing bowl.

Puree the squash mixture with a blender until smooth. Transfer to a serving bowl. Repeat with the remaining squash and shallots. Serve warm.

Serves 6-8.

Recipe adapted from Real Simple and Food Network.

Broccoli Casserole

2 eggs, beaten
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup of cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup whole milk
2 tbsp butter, melted
3 cups of broccoli, chopped (frozen or fresh)
1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
2 tbsp butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine first 7 ingredients, fold in the broccoli. Transfer to a greased 1 1/2 quart baking dish.

In a medium saute pan, melt 2 tbsp butter and add bread crumbs, stir. Toast breadcrumbs until lightly golden, about 5 minutes.

Sprinkle breadcrumbs over the broccoli mixture and bake for 30-35 minutes until bubbly and heated through.

Serves 8.

Buttery Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes

1 head garlic
drizzle of olive oil
3 lbs. baking potatoes (Russet or Yukon Gold)
Kosher salt and pepper
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup whole milk
3 tbsp minced chives

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice the head of garlic in half and drizzle with olive oil. Wrap garlic in foil and place in a small baking dish, bake for 30-45 minutes until the garlic cloves are soft. Set aside.

Peel the potatoes and cut into chunks and bring to boil in a large covered saucepan with salted water. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer about 20 minutes, until potatoes are tender and pierce easily with a knife. Drain the potatoes well and return to the pan, over medium-low heat to remove any excess moisture.

In a large mixing bowl, place potatoes, butter, squeezed roasted garlic bulbs and half of the milk. Whip with a hand blender on high speed, slowly adding in the rest of the milk until potatoes have a creamy consistency.

Mix in the chives, salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot with additional butter if desired.

Serves 6.

Recipe from Williams-Sonoma, Comfort Food

Creamed Corn with Bacon and Garlic

4 slices of bacon, cooked and chopped
2 cups of sweet corn (white and yellow mix)
1 tbsp bacon fat or olive oil
2 tsp garlic, chopped
2 tbsp sweet onion, chopped
1/4 cup heavy cream
kosher salt
fresh ground pepper
sweet paprika, for garnish
2 tbsp chives, chopped fine for garnish (can also substitute fresh mint)

Cook bacon in a pre-heated saute pan over medium-high heat, drain on paper towels and set aside.

Remove all but 2 tbsp of bacon fat in the pan, add the garlic and onions and saute until soft and golden.

Puree 1 cup of corn in a blender, and add with the additional corn kernels into the pan with the onions and garlic, saute for 3-4 minutes.

Chop the bacon into a medium dice and add to the corn, garlic and onions mixture.

Finish the mixture in the pan with heavy cream, salt and pepper to taste, stirring through.

Garnish with paprika and chopped chives or mint.

Serves 4-6.

Roasted Turkey and Gram’s Sausage Sage Stuffing

1 c. butter (2 sticks)
¾ c. finely minced onion
12 c. coarse bread, torn into cubes, crusts removed
1 ½ c. chopped celery (stalks and leaves)
1 tbsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 tbsp. poultry seasoning (to taste)
1/2 tbsp. dried sage or 1 tbsp fresh sage, chopped fine
1 can chicken broth
¼ c. hot water
1 lb. pork sausage, browned and crumbled

12 lb turkey
butter, softened
salt
sage, dried
thyme, dried
basil, dried
fresh ground pepper (black and white)
cayenne pepper

In a large roasting pan, break up bread into coarse cubes (about 2-3 loaves). Heat a large heavy skillet over medium high heat and brown pork sausage until cooked thoroughly. Remove the sausage and pour over the large roasting pan full of bread crumbs.

Next melt 2 sticks of butter in the same skillet that the sausage was browned in and cook onions and celery until soft and lightly browned, stirring often. Add salt and pepper and stir again, remove from heat and pour on top of bread crumb and sausage in the roasting pan.

Add the chicken broth, poultry seasoning, sage, additional salt and pepper to taste and stir thoroughly throughout crumbs and stuffing mixture. Add ¼ c. hot water to stuffing until moist (not wet but not too dry of a texture). Cover roasting pan and let sit in the refrigerator over night.

The next day, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prep the turkey by rubbing it all over with butter. Wrap ends of legs and wings with aluminum foil to prevent burning while cooking. Sprinkle salt, sage, thyme, basil, and three peppers (black, white and cayenne) onto turkey and rub in well.

Loosely stuff the turkey with stuffing just before roasting and add any leftover stuffing to a roasting pan. Cook the turkey breast down for the first 45 minutes, basting occasionally with poultry juices. Place leftover stuffing in a roasting pan, cover with foil and cook for about 45 minutes to an hour, basting with turkey juices to keep it moist. Rotate turkey on its side and cook another 15 minutes, flipping sides and cooking on the other side for another 15 minutes. Flip the bird over breast up and keep basting and roasting the turkey about another 30 minutes until temperature reads 165 degrees in the breast and 170-175 in the deepest part of the thigh. Remove stuffing in roasting pan and turkey. Allow turkey to rest 20-25 minutes on a carving board before serving.

And don’t forget to make a homemade gravy with the crunchy brown bits and pan drippings (skim off the top layer of fat first), by adding a 1/3 cup of flour and 1-2 tbsp of butter, stirring for a few minutes to make a roux, then slowly add in the liquid (1-2 cups of chicken stock, some brandy or 1 cup white wine, 1 tbsp of cider vinegar and a little salt and pepper to taste) Whisk it into a creamy goodness right in the roasting pan on the stove over medium heat for about 7-8 minutes until it thickens, and serve hot on the side with the turkey and stuffing. Yum!

Makes 3 quarts of stuffing for a 12 lb turkey

Gram’s Stuffing recipe adapted from Betty Crocker’s New Picture Cookbook, 1962

Brown Sugar Buttermilk Pie

For the crust:
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp fine salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
3-5 tbsp ice water

For the filling:
3 tbsp all purpose flour
3 large eggs, plus 2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, room temperature
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
6 tbsp (3/4 stick) unsalted butter

Make the crust: In a food processor, pulse flour, sugar, and salt until combined. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few pea-size pieces of butter remaining. Sprinkle with 3 tbsp ice water. Pulse until dough is crumbly but holds together when squeezed (you can add additional ice water if necessary, up to 2 tbsp, 1 at a time); do not overmix. Form dough into a disk, wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate until firm, 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. On a floured surface, roll out the dough to a 12 inch round. Place in a 9 inch pie plate, fold overhang under, and crimp edges. Prick dough all over with a fork. Place a sheet of parchment paper over dough and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until edge is light golden brown about 15 minutes; remove parchment and weights.

Make the filling: In a large bowl, whisk together flour, eggs and brown sugar until smooth. Whisk in buttermilk, nutmeg and cinnamon until combined. In a small saucepan, heat butter over medium, swirling pan occasionally, until golden brown and most of the foam has subsided, 8 to 10 minutes. Immediately whisk into buttermilk mixture. Pour filling into pie shell and bake until set but still wobbly in center, 25-35 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack, 2 hours before serving. Can be refrigerated and wrapped in plastic for up to 3 days.

Serves 8.

Recipe from Martha Stewart Everyday Food, November 2011

Spiced Mulled Wine

1 bottle red wine (Merlot or Cabernet)
1 tsp almond extract
2 cinnamon sticks, plus a few extra for garnish
3 whole cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tbsp honey

Pour wine into a double boiler (a metal mixing bowl over boiling water in a saucepan) and warm over medium heat.

Add the almond extract, spices and honey and stir until dissolved. Reduce heat, cover and simmer gently, stirring on occasion.

Serve in heat-resistant glasses or mugs, garnish with additional cinnamon sticks, if desired.

Serves 4-6.

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Peach, Prosciutto and Mozzarella Salad


Peach, Prosciutto and Mozzarella Salad

Peach, Prosciutto and Mozzarella Salad

Peaches. There’s something so satisfying about biting into the sweet, juicy flesh that quenches the thirst for a cool and refreshing treat in the summertime.

Peaches

Peaches

Even the perfectly round shape, bright peachy red and fuzzy exterior gives it a heavenly appeal.

Peach Still Life

Peach Still Life

Almost too pretty to eat.

Peach, Prosciutto and Mozzarella Salad

Peach, Prosciutto and Mozzarella Salad

This recipe pairs white peaches with prosciutto and fresh mozzarella in a tangy sweet vinaigrette. It’s refreshing and light and the salty prosciutto paired with the cool, mild mozzarella and sweet peaches is a combination to die for. You can also substitute the mozzarella with Ricotta Salata (fresh ricotta) or Feta Cheese, and add some sliced or slivered almonds for crunch if you like. Serve this salad with some crusty bread and a glass of white wine – perfect for a lunch or dinner side salad with an Italian dish.

Peach, Prosciutto and Mozzarella Salad

Ingredients:

1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp honey
1 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp salt
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 head leafy green lettuce
2 large white peaches, sliced into wedges
½ red onion, sliced paper thin
3-4 slices prosciutto, sliced thin and torn into pieces
3 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, shredded into pieces

Dressing:

Combine lemon juice, honey, vinegar, salt and pepper, stirring with a whisk. Gradually drizzle in olive oil, stirring constantly, until vinaigrette is mixed thoroughly and doesn’t separate.

Salad: 

Combine lettuce and peach wedges in a large bowl, drizzle with dressing and toss to coat.

Arrange salad on serving dish or in individual bowls and top with prosciutto, red onion and mozzarella cheese. Top with freshly cracked black pepper.

Serve with crusty bread and a glass of white wine (Reisling or Chardonnay pairs well).

Serves 4.

Lovely Peaches

Lovely Peaches

Other Peach Recipes you may enjoy:

Grilled Chicken and Peach Salad

Oprah’s Summer Peach Salad

Paula Deen’s Grilled Peach Salad

Roasted Beet, Peach and Goat Cheese Salad

Fresh from the Farm Market: Herbed Potato Salad & Strawberry Watermelon Salad


Summertime always remind me of home – when the sun is shining, a warm breeze is in the air, locusts are humming and all the flowers, fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables are in full bloom. There’s a small local farmer’s market up in Webster, NY not far from where I grew up that I used to visit with my Mom as a kid. We would buy fresh apple cider and donuts, pumpkins for Halloween and fresh corn and melons for our summer picnics. This year I went home to visit for Fourth of July weekend, and my Mom and I visited once again to buy some fresh fruit and veggies for our holiday BBQ feast.

Herman's Farm Market & Cider Mill

Herman's Farm Market & Cider Mill

I was craving some juicy watermelon and strawberries and went on a mission. There’s nothing like that first bite of sweet, cool, bright pink flesh of melon and ruby red berries in the summertime.

Fresh Watermelons

Fresh Watermelons

This Watermelon and Strawberry Salad is a simple combination of fresh watermelon, strawberries and a few blueberries mixed in with a little bit of lemon juice, sugar and water to make a simple refreshing syrup to macerate the fruit. This is how we traditionally make the fruit salad but you can also toss the fruit in a citrus infused balsamic vinegar for a tangy contrast with the sweet fruit – a good friend of mine made this salad and used Tavern on the Green Citrus which has a blend of orange, tangerine and lime essence and is just as delicious!

Ripe Juicy Strawberries

Ripe Juicy Strawberries

I found a recipe for a French Potato Salad made with salt potatoes and fresh herbs, a lightened up version from the heavier mayonnaise-laden salads from our family picnics of the past.

Salt Potatoes

Salt Potatoes

It calls for salt (or new) potatoes (red or yellow), shallots, parsley and thyme tossed in an oil, vinegar and Dijon mustard base making it light and tangy.

Italian Parsley

Italian Parsley

Fresh parsley adds some green…and the sweet shallots mixed with thyme, dill and onions gives it nice fresh flavor. I added some dried dill (you could also use fresh) and a few chopped green onions for an extra dash of flavor – délicieux!

Shallots

Shallots

Fresh market grown. Simple, fast and delicious. And most of all homemade with love, and my Mom – just like the good old days.

French Herbed Potato Salad

French Herbed Potato Salad

French Herbed Potato Salad

Ingredients

2 lbs red or yellow salt potatoes, halved
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper
1/4 c olive oil (light yellow, not extra virgin)
3 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp Champagne vinegar
1 small shallot, minced
3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
1/2 tbsp dried or fresh dill
1/4 small Vidalia onion, chopped fine
1-2 green onions, sliced

Preparation

Place potatoes in a large pot of cold salted water covering potatoes by about an inch. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer and cook until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Run under cold water to cool slightly, then drain.

While potatoes are cooking, whisk together oil, mustard, vinegar, shallot, parsley, thyme and dill in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper. Add cooked potatoes and chopped onion and 1/2 of the green onions to the dressing and toss to combine. Garnish with additional green onions and parsley and serve at room temperature.

Serves 6-8. 

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart Living.

Strawberry Watermelon Salad

Strawberry Watermelon Salad

Strawberry Watermelon Salad

Ingredients

1/2 c sugar
1 c water
1/4 watermelon, cut into cubes
3 c strawberries, halved
1/2 pint fresh blueberries
1/2 lemon, squeezed for juice
garnish: fresh mint leaves (torn into small pieces) or microgreens

Preparation

To make the simple syrup, bring sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan, let simmer for about 5 minutes and cool.

Place watermelon, strawberries and blueberries in a large bowl and add the syrup, mixing well. Add a dash of lemon juice and garnish with mint or microgreens.

Serves 6.

On the Menu: Cooking with Fresh Seasonal Ingredients


Scallops and Asparagus

Scallops and Asparagus

Spring has arrived! It’s my favorite time of year when everything comes alive…flowers are blooming, streets are buzzing, the sun is shining, and the freshest fruits and vegetables are available at the local markets. Asparagus, Strawberries, Avocados – three lovely, seasonal ingredients perfect for a light and refreshing Spring menu. The salad has marinated strawberries in a Strawberry Balsamic Viniagrette, which gives them a sweet, tangy flavor – a perfect complement to the crunchy toasted almonds, bacon and avocado in this delicious spring salad. The Scallops are pan-seared in a roasted garlic chardonnay marinade with a splash of lemon, served with a side of sautéed fresh asparagus. Enjoy!

Pan Seared Scallops with Garlic and Lemon and Sauteed Asparagus

Ingredients

16 Large Sea Scallops
¼ c. Roasted Garlic Chardonnay Marinade (Tavern on the Green)
2 tbsp EVOO
1 lemon, sliced into wedges
Lemon Pepper (Trader Joe’s)
1-2 Green Onions, sliced
Handful of fresh parsley, chopped
Kosher Salt to taste

Preparation

In a plastic freezer bag, place scallops and ¼ c. marinade and lemon pepper, coat scallops well. Marinade in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

Prepped ingredients

Prepped ingredients

Chop the green onions and parsley and reserve for topping the scallops.

Asparagus

Asparagus

Cut off the ends of the asparagus (tough parts of the stem), rinse and pat dry. In a pre-heated sauté pan over medium-high, sauté the Asparagus in a tablespoon of olive oil with a splash of lemon juice and lemon pepper for about 5-6 minutes until cooked through.

After scallops are done marinating, take them out of the bag and dry off with paper towels. Place them in the same sauté pan, adding remaining 1 tbsp. olive oil and a sprinkle of kosher salt and lemon pepper.

Pan-seared Scallops

Pan-seared Scallops

Sear the scallops for approx. 2-3 minutes per side until browned and cooked through. Sprinkle scallops with some fresh lemon juice and remove from pan.

Place asparagus and scallops on a plate and garnish with chopped green onions, parsley and a lemon wedge.

Serves 4.

Strawberry, Bacon and Avocado Salad

Strawberry, Bacon and Avocado Salad

Strawberry, Bacon and Avocado Salad with Toasted Marcona Almonds

Ingredients

1 lb of mixed lettuce
1 pint of fresh strawberries, sliced
4 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 ripe avocado, sliced
½ cup of Rosemary Marcona almonds, toasted (Trader Joe’s)
3 green onions, sliced thin
3 tbsp of EVOO
3 tbsp of Strawberry Balsamic Vinegar (Tavern on the Green)
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper

Preparation

Slice the strawberries into thin slices and place in a sealable plastic bag with the 2 tbsp Strawberry Balsamic vinegar in the refrigerator, let marinade for about an hour.

Prepare salad dressing, mix olive oil, 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, and mustard together, slowly whisking in oil until it is mixed well and set aside.

Fry bacon in a pan until cooked well and drain on paper towels. Let bacon cool and crumble for salad topping. Set aside.

Rosemary Marcona Almonds and Green Onions

Rosemary Marcona Almonds and Green Onions

Place almonds in a separate pre-heated medium-sized pan with a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle kosher salt over the nuts. Cook and stir for about 10-15 minutes until golden brown and toasty.

Slice the avocados and green onions.

In a large salad bowl, toss the lettuce and vinaigrette together, mixing well, and top salad greens with the marinated strawberries and sliced avocados.

Garnish the salad with crumbled bacon, green onions, toasted almonds, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 4.

Salad Nicoise for a Spring Day


Salad Nicoise

Salad Nicoise

Spring is about unearthing fresh things. Lighter things. Brighter things. Turning a new leaf. Dusting off and starting new. There’s something so refreshing about a lovely, fresh, healthy salad on a Spring Day and what better time to make one of my favorites: Salad Nicoise.

Salad Nicoise is known as a compound salad made with eggs, potatoes, green beans, salad greens, fresh tuna and Nicoise olives arranged in a colorful display. The salad is made with a Tarragon Vinaigrette for the potatoes and with a Red wine vinaigrette drizzled over the entire salad platter at the end. We start by making the vinaigrette dressings, then boil the potatoes, beans, eggs in separate pots. The tomatoes are blanched for a minute and then cooled in an ice bath for peeling and quartering. The fresh tuna is seared in olive oil over a high heat until it has a crispy crust and then cut into slices. This recipe makes a large serving for 6-8 people which can be halved if you’re serving for a smaller crowd (or quartered if just making this lovely dish for yourself!) – Profiter!

Salad Nicoise

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

 Tarragon Vinaigrette

3 tbsp tarragon wine vinegar
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
¾ cup olive oil
1 large shallot, finely minced
¼ c or more chopped fresh tarragon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Red Wine Vinaigrette

3 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
¾ cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
3 tbsp minced fresh green herbs (basil, parsley or tarragon)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Salad 

3 cups (2 lbs) red-skinned potatoes
¼ c. dry white wine
3 c (1 lb) baby green beans (haricots verts)
3-4 tomatoes
1 tbsp canola or vegetable oil
1 lb fresh tuna (or 2 cans imported tuna in olive oil)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 head Boston lettuce leaves, washed, drained and dried
3 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and quartered
6 anchovy fillets, soaked in water for 20 minutes and cut lengthwise
½ cup Nicoise olives

Preparation

Make the tarragon vinaigrette. In a small bowl, combine the vinegar and mustard. Whisk until well blended. Slowly, in a thin stream, add the oil, whisking constantly, until it is emulsified into the vinegar and mustard. Stir in the shallot and tarragon and season with salt and pepper. Reserve.

Make the red wine vinaigrette. In a small bowl, combine the vinegar and mustard. Whisk until well blended. Slowly, in a thin stream, add the oil, whisking constantly, until it is emulsified into the vinegar and mustard. Stir in the garlic and fresh herbs and season with salt and pepper. Reserve.

Place the potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and cook until just done, about 20 mins. Drain in a colander and allow the potatoes to cool slightly. When cool enough to handle, cut the potatoes into ¼ inch slices or a medium dice. Transfer the potatoes to a bowl and pour the wine over. Toss to coat and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. When the potatoes are completely cool, drain them of any excess wine and toss them with the tarragon vinaigrette. Reserve.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Trim the beans at the stem end leaving the tails intact. Add the beans to the boiling water and cook until just done, about 5 mins. Remove the beans with a slotted spoon, reserving the water. Drain and refresh under cold water. Drain again.

Return the salted water to a boil. Core the tomatoes and make an X in the bases just deep enough to score the skin. Fill a large bowl with ice and water and have it nearby. When the water boils, add the tomatoes and blanch them for 1 minutes. With a slotted spoon, immediately transfer the tomatoes to the ice bath. When cool, remove the skins and cut the tomatoes into quarters and eighths.

To prepare the fresh tuna, in a heavy skillet heat the oil over a high heat. Lightly salt and pepper the tuna and sauté until the fish has a golden crust and is rare to medium-rare in the center, 2-3 minutes per side. Cool and cut into slices or 1 inch cubes.

To assemble the final presentation of the salad: drizzle the beans and tomatoes with some of the red wine vinaigrette. If using canned tuna, lightly flake and toss with the vinaigrette lightly. Place the lettuce leaves around the edge of the salad platter. Drape the eggs with the anchovies. Arrange the tomato alternately with the olives, eggs and string beans. Mound the potato salad on the platter. Arrange the tuna next to the potatoes and drizzle the remaining red wine vinaigrette over all. Serve.


Mardi Gras Celebration: Crab Cakes w/ Spicy Remoulade Sauce


Hot and Spicy Crab Cakes for Fat Tuesday

New Orleans is one of my favorite cities in the world because of its rich history, diverse culture, quaint courtyards and wrought-iron balconies, jazz and blues on every corner and most of all the delicious spicy Cajun and Creole food this city is famous for. There is a difference between Cajun (French Louisiana settlers) and Creole (early French and Spanish settlers) and the food is slightly different in style although the ingredients used in dishes are similar – the “Holy Trinity” of green peppers, onions and celery, seafood (crawfish, shrimp, oysters), sausages, roux (flour cooked in fat as a thickening base for soups, stews and gumbos), hot sauce (Tabasco) and Cajun/Creole Spices made of cayenne, salt, pepper, onion powder, paprika, chili powder, mustard powder, basil, thyme and cloves (here’s a great recipe to make your own or Tony Chacere’s is a great one that is pre-made).

Creole cuisine is slightly more refined and lighter in spices and seasonings than Cajun cuisine, based on classical French cooking technique. Creole food has influences from France, Spain, Africa, Germany and Italy and typical Creole dishes include Oysters Rockefeller, Baked Fish Creole, Shrimp Etoufee, Remoulade Sauce and Bananas Foster. Cajun food is considered more of a “peasant country food” and tends to have spicier, more pungent, heavier ingredients and one-pot dishes. Typical Cajun dishes include Gumbo and Jambalaya, Red Beans and Rice, Crawfish Cornbread Dressing and Po-Boy Sandwiches.

Whether its Cajun or Creole, celebrate  Mardi Gras “Fat Tuesday” by cooking up some of these crunchy, golden Crab Cakes with a Spicy Remoulade Sauce and serve it with a Mixed Greens Salad of Endive, Escarole or Chicory, with a Creamy Shallot French Vinaigrette.

Crabcakes with Spicy Remoulade Sauce

Crabcakes with Spicy Remoulade Sauce

Crab Cakes

½ lb jumbo lump crabmeat, picked over (large chunks)
3 tbsp finely chopped red pepper
2 tbsp finely chopped shallots
2 tbsp finely chopped flat leaf parsley
¼ c mayonnaise
1 egg
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
Salt and freshly ground pepper (to taste)
Tabasco, several dashes (to taste)
Canola oil, for sautéing
Chives and Lemon wedges, for garnish

Combine crabmeat, red pepper, shallots and parsley in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper. In a small bowl, combine mayo and egg; season with cayenne and Tabasco. Gently stir in crab mixture and mix to combine. Stir in 2 tbsp of breadcrumbs to make the crab cakes hold together, and if necessary, add another 2 tbsp of breadcrumbs. Form into 4 crab cakes and coat with the Panko. Place on a baking sheet and refrigerate until ready to fry.

Crab Cakes Ready to Cook

Crab Cakes Ready to Cook

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat and add enough canola oil to coat the bottom of the pan.

Frying Crabcakes

Frying Crabcakes in Hot Oil

Add in crab cakes and cook over medium-high heat until the crab cakes are lightly golden, about 2 minutes. Flip crab cakes over and continue cooking another 2 minutes on the other side, or until lightly golden. Transfer to a parchment-lined sheet pan. Bake the crab cakes 10 minutes to cook through.

Crab Cakes on Parchment Paper

Crab Cakes on Parchment Paper

Spicy Remoulade Sauce

1 ½ c mayonnaise
3 tbsp capers, drained and chopped
3 tbsp chopped cornichons (small sweet gherkins)
1 tbsp chopped chives
1 tbsp chopped chervil
1 tbsp chopped tarragon
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp anchovy paste
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
3-4 dashes Tabasco

In a medium bowl, combine the mayonnaise, capers, cornichons, chives, chervil, tarragon, mustard, anchovy paste, Worcestershire sauce, and Tabasco sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover the sauce with plastic wrap and keep in the refrigerator until ready to use, up to overnight.

Place a dollop of Remoulade with garnishes of chopped chives and sliced lemons with the Crab Cakes. Serve with a crisp white wine and mixed greens (Endive, Escarole or Chicory) with a Creamy Shallot Vinaigrette (recipe follows).

Makes about 1 pint.

Mixed Greens with Creamy Shallot Vinaigrette

Beat 1 egg yolk with 2 tbsp white wine vinegar, 1 tbsp Dijon mustard and 2 tbsp minced shallots. Slowly, in a thin stream, add ¾ c vegetable oil and blend well. Season with salt and pepper. Serve over mixed greens such as Endive, Escarole or Chicory.

Makes 8 servings.

Recipes originated from Chef Gail Katz and ICE

Check out Tabasco.com for more great Mardi Gras recipes (Gumbo, Jambalaya, Etoufee & King Cakes!)

In the Mood For Love


Recipes To Spice Up Your Valentine’s Day


“Aphrodisiac: any of various forms of stimulation thought to arouse sexual excitement. Aphrodisiacs may be classified in two principal groups: (1) psycho-physiological (visual, tactile, olfactory, aural) and (2) internal (stemming from food, alcoholic drinks, drugs, love potions, medical preparations)”.

We’ve all heard that there are certain foods that have aphrodisiac powers, but which ones and what effect do they have on romance? There are several foods that increase the passion and mood for love – Almonds, Arugula, Asparagus, Avocado, Bananas, Basil, Chilies, Chocolate, Coffee, Figs, Garlic, Ginger, Honey, Nutmeg, Oysters, Pinenuts,  Raspberries, Strawberries, Black Truffles, Vanilla and Wine, just to name a few. Truffles are said to stimulate and sensitize the skin for touch. Vanilla’s scent and flavor is know to increase lust. Chilies increase blood flow and sex drive. The chemicals in Chocolate trigger neurochemicals in the brain that increases passion. Red Wine relaxes and stimulates the senses. For Valentine’s Day, I rounded up a few recipes featuring some of these sexy foods, guaranteed to spice up your night and make it a LOVELY one to remember!

Herbed Baked Oysters recipe

Herbed Oysters

Ingredients:

24 fresh oysters
¾ cup of breadcrumbs
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon of olive oil
½ teaspoon of fresh thyme, chopped
½ teaspoon of fresh basil, chopped
¼ teaspoon of fresh marjoram, chopped
Zest of one lemon
2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Shuck the oysters and set aside on the half shell. Discard the remaining shells.

In a bowl, mix the breadcrumbs, garlic, mustard, olive oil, thyme, basil, marjoram, lemon zest and Parmesan.

 Top each oyster with about 1 teaspoon of the breadcrumb mixture and place the oysters on a baking sheet. Cook under high broiler (grill) for about 6 minutes or until the oysters are crispy and golden brown.

 Serve hot, with a wedge of lemon and your favorite hot pepper sauce on the side.

Recipe originated from www.oysterrecipes.org

Milk Soup with Truffles au Gratin

Truffle Gratin

Ingredients:

2 c. of chicken juice (gravy)
2 + 2/3 c. of milk cream
1 oz. of fresh truffle
2 lbs. of fresh bread
2/3 c. of truffle juice
1/3 c. of milk
2/3 c. of egg whites
Salt, white pepper

Preparation:

Reduce the chicken juice to half.

Add the milk, milk cream and reduce again.

Add the truffle juice and reduce until you get a nice texture.

Check on seasoning and put aside for the moment.

Preparation of the bread toasts:

Whisk 2/3 c. of cream, season with salt and pepper.

Cut the bread into 1 inch thick slices and cut them into circles (2 inch diameters)

Toast both sides of the bread pieces, dig one side on the piece and pour the wiped cream into it, bake it “au gratin”
under the broiler for a few minutes until lightly browned around the edges.

Recipe originated from French-Truffles.com

Chocolate Chicken

Chocolate Chicken

2 lbs. chicken, cut up — (2 to 2 1/2)
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil — (1 to 2)
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. anise seed
1/2 cup almonds, chopped
1/2 cup peanuts, chopped
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp salt
3 tomatoes, chopped
2 medium onions, chopped
1/2 tsp. fresh pepper
2 tsp. hot crushed red peppers
1/8 tsp. cayenne (or to taste)
Sesame seeds

Brown chicken in a medium skillet in hot oil. Remove to a large (13x9x2) cake pan or baking dish. Pour oil from skillet and add the stock. Simmer 5 minutes. Mix cocoa with vegetable oil to form a paste. Add cloves, cinnamon, anise seed, and blend. Stir spice mixture into simmering stock and simmer 5 minutes more, stirring occasionally. 
Pour mixture over the chicken parts. Cover and bake in preheated 350-degree oven until chicken is tender (around 1 to 1 1/2 hours). Serve sprinkled with sesame seeds over a bed of rice.

Spicy Scallops with Capellini

Scallop

Ingredients:

1 pound sea scallops, quartered if large
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 small dried chipotle chile with seeds, stemmed and chopped
Fine sea salt
1/2 pound capellini

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400°. In a large shallow glass or ceramic baking dish, toss the scallops with the oil, wine, parsley, garlic and chipotle. Season with salt and bake for about 15 minutes, or until the oil is sizzling and the scallops are firm.

Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the capellini until just al dente, about 3 minutes. Drain; transfer to a serving bowl. Add the scallops and their juices, toss well and serve immediately.

Serves 4.

Recipe originated from Food and Wine magazine.

Coffee and Chocolate Braised Short Ribs

Chocolate-Coffee Braised Short Ribs

Ingredients:

Olive oil or lard
5 lbs beef short ribs
Salt and Pepper
1 large onion, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp oregano
1 tsp cumin
2 cups strong coffee
1.5 cups chopped tomatoes, with juice (or one 28 oz can)
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 cup unsweetened chocolate (70% or higher cacao)
Cilantro, chopped (for garnish)

Preparation:

Remove the short ribs from their package and rinse them under cold water. Pat them dry. Season the short ribs liberally with salt and pepper. (Use more salt than you think you will need). Heat the olive oil or lard in a cast iron pan or Dutch oven over medium high heat.

Place two or three of the short ribs in the pan. Be careful not to crowd the short ribs. You want to brown them, not steam them. Brown the short ribs well on all sides. You want the outsides of meat just a tad under burnt. Transfer the browned meat to a plate and continue to brown the rest of the meat. When done, remove all of the meat to the plate.

Reduce the heat to medium. If you used a cast iron pan for the browning, heat more oil in a large oven safe covered casserole dish. If you’re using a Dutch oven, just keep on cooking.

Add the onions and peppers and cook until the onions are translucent, approximately 5-10 minutes. Next mix in the garlic and cook for another minute. Stir in the brown sugar and spices and cook for 5 minutes longer. Add the coffee, chopped tomatoes, and tomato paste and bring the whole mixture to a boil.

Return the short ribs to the pot and cover. Braise in the oven for 1.5 to 2 hours. Mix in the chocolate until melted. Season with the cilantro and salt and pepper.

Cook’s Notes: I cooked my ribs in a Dutch oven, but the next time I make this dish I’ll brown the ribs in the cast iron pan and then transfer them to the Dutch oven. I also think the chocolate makes a big difference. I received some Scharffenberger chocolate as part of a gift bag and I used that. However I think the Theo chocolate had a smoother taste, even though they were the same percentage cacao.

We served the short ribs over pasta, but I think rice would have been a better side kick to this dish. The sauce is very flavorful with the coffee, chocolate, and the peppers, and rice would just soak it all up. Cook the rice and plate a bed of it. Then serve the short ribs and sauce over the top. Mashed potatoes would also work well here and the addition of some sort of starch would make this a complete meal.

Recipe originated from www.cooklocal.com, adapted from the Washington Local and Seasonal Cookbook

Arugula and Avocado Salad With Shaved Parmesan and Toasted Pine Nuts

Arugula Avocado Salad

Ingredients:

2 bunches arugula, washed and dried ( about 6 cups)
1 avocados, peeled and sliced
Shaved parmigiano-reggiano cheese, to taste

Lemon Dressing

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 medium garlic cloves, finely minced
4 -5 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper

Directions

To make the dressing, in a small bowl, combine the lemon juice and garlic. Slowly whisk in olive oil until the mixture is creamy. Season with salt and pepper.

Place arugula in a serving bowl and add dressing to taste. Mix well. Top with avocado slices, drizzle a bit more dressing over them and season with a pinch of salt. Using a vegetable peeler, shave slivers of Parmesan over the top.

Top off the salad with some toasted pine nuts for an extra crunch (and spice to your Valentine’s Day!)

Serves 4.

Recipe originated from Food.com

Bananas Foster

Bananas Foster

Ingredients

¼ cup (½ stick) butter
1 cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup banana liqueur
4 bananas, cut in half 
lengthwise, then halved
¼ cup dark rum
4 scoops vanilla ice cream

Instructions

Combine the butter, sugar, and cinnamon in a flambé pan or skillet. Place the pan over low heat either on an alcohol burner or on top of the stove, and cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Stir in the banana liqueur, then place the bananas in the pan. When the banana sections soften and begin to brown, carefully add the rum. Continue to cook the sauce until the rum is hot, then tip the pan slightly to ignite the rum. When the flames subside, lift the bananas out of the pan and place four pieces over each portion of ice cream. Generously spoon warm sauce over the top of the ice cream and serve immediately.

Recipe originated from Brennan’s Restaurant in New Orleans.

Chocolate Honey Mousse

chocolate mousse

Ingredients

12 oz of dark crispy chocolate
5-6 dessert spoons of pure honey
3 cups of fresh cream

Instructions

Mix together dark chocolate (should be crushed into pieces), 5 dessert spoons honey and ¾ cup of fresh cream. The ingredients
should be mixed over luke warm water. This mixture will need to be stirred constantly, till the dark chocolate stats to melt and combines itself with the honey and cream.

Once all three ingredients have blended into one another, keep it aside for it to cool.

While the chocolate mixture is kept aside to cool, start whipping the remaining cream (2 ¼ cups) but not very firm.

Once the cream is whipped and the chocolate mixture is cool, gradually and slowly fold the cream into it. Blend this mixture well.

Take a special serving dish and carefully pour the whole mixture into it and keep it to set in the refrigerator.

The chocolate honey mousse can also be poured into separate individual bowls as it does make a lavish amount.

If the mousse is poured into one whole serving dish, the chocolate honey mouse might take about 3 to 4 hours for it to set well.

Chocolate honey mousse can be served with creamy vanilla ice cream. Garnish with crushed nuts as a topping.

White Chocolate Raspberry Tart

Raspberry Tart

Ingredients:

1 ¼ cup of walnuts, finely chopped
¾ cup of unsalted butter, softened
3 tablespoons of sugar
1 ½ cup of flour
1 teaspoon of freshly-grated orange zest
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 cups of fresh raspberries
12 oz of white chocolate, chopped
½ cup of heavy cream, warmed
½ cup of whipped cream, to garnish

Directions:

In a bowl with an electric mixer, blend walnuts, ¾ of the butter, sugar, flour, orange zest and egg until thoroughly combined, and press into an 11-inch tart pan with removable bottom.

Freeze the shell for 15 minutes.

While the shell is freezing, preheat your oven to 375°F.

 Bake the shell in middle of your oven for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown.

 Allow the shell to cool on a rack.

Remove the side of pan and transfer the shell to a plate.

 Fill shell with 2 ½ cups of raspberries.

In a large metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, melt the white chocolate. 

Remove the bowl from the heat and whisk in the cream and the remaining butter, whisking until smooth.

 Spread the white chocolate mixture over the raspberries, smoothing top and chill, covered, for 3 hours or overnight.

Garnish the tart with whipped cream and remaining ½ cup of raspberries.

Serve at room temperature.

Recipe originated from www.raspberryrecipes.net

Read more about Aphrodisiac Foods and History

A Taste of Tuscany


Essentials of Tuscan Cooking

Eggplant Crostini

Tuscany (Toscana) is probably one of the most beautiful and scenic regions of Italy and the most popular places to visit, known for its rolling hills, mesmerizing sunsets,  rustic landscapes, vineyards, farmhouses and olive groves. I have not had the opportunity to visit there yet, but I love the cuisine and it’s first on my list when I plan my next trip to Italy.

Tuscan cuisine is a simple and earthy way of cooking, which centers around fresh and local ingredients from the farming region such as olive oil, greens, poultry, beans, beef, pork, rabbit, lamb, and sausages. Crostini is a famous antipasti which are little toasted breads spread with toppings such as olive tapenade or chicken liver pates. Bruschetta is also a popular antipasti made with rustic bread, fresh chopped tomatoes and garlic. Other popular dishes from the area are Panzanella (bread salad), Minestrone soup, Pasta Fagiole (cannelloni bean and pasta soup) and Ribollita.

Because of the ample farm land in Tuscany and areas surrounding Florence, there is a large production of olive oil, grapes and wine, and a variety of fruits and vegetables and herbs such as pears, oranges, thyme, rosemary, tomatoes, wild mushrooms, artichokes, asparagus, spinach and beans – all main ingredients in Tuscan cooking. Risotto is an earthy dish that incorporates many of these vegetables and cheeses from the region. Fennel is another ingredient often used in salad and sautéed with meat dishes. In Florence, Pecorino (a salty sheep’s milk cheese) tends to have herbs, garlic and red pepper added for flavor and is served shaved in salads or as cut in chunks served with grapes, olives and rustic breads like Foccacia bread with rosemary and olive oil.

Almond and Anise Biscotti and Oranges in Marsala Glaze are standard desserts and most of the wine that originates in the area is Chianti, aged in small oak barrels. Another popular white wine is Vernaccia, ranging from light and crisp to full-bodied, made in a small medieval town known as San Gimignano.

The following is a sampling of some of my favorite Tuscan recipes that use rustic and earthy ingredients originating from a Tuscan Cooking class I took at the Institute of Culinary Education in NYC. If you’re interested in learning more about Tuscan cooking there are a variety of cookbooks sold online, as well as cooking excursions in Tuscany with local chefs and other sites dedicated to Tuscan cooking.

Mushroom Risotto

Wild Mushroom Risotto

Mushroom stock:

½ lb. cremini mushrooms

½ lb. white button mushrooms

½ lb. shitake mushrooms

2 quarts chicken stock

½ c. dried porcini mushrooms

4 tbsp butter

3 oz. Madeira wine

Risotto:

3 tbsp butter

2 shallots, finely minced

4 c. Arborio rice

¾ c. white wine

Mushroom stock (reserved)

1 tbsp. minced chives

1 tbsp. Italian parsley

¼ c. grated Pecorino Romano

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

To make the mushroom stock, wash and trim the stems of the fresh mushrooms. Reserve the stems and slice the mushroom caps for use later in the recipe. (Make sure to dust of the dirt first and don’t soak the mushrooms).

Combine the chicken stock, stems, dried porcini mushrooms in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer, and cook for 30 minutes over low heat. Strain through a cheesecloth and reserve the liquid for the risotto.

Heat a large sauté pan and add 4 tbsp of butter. Add the sliced mushrooms and sauté until browned. Deglaze the Madeira and reduce until almost all the liquid has evaporated. Reserve the mushrooms. (Try to let the Madeira glaze sit, don’t stir).

For the risotto, heat a wide pot or rondeau (flat bottom pot with tall sides) over medium-high heat and add 2 tbsp butter. Add the shallots and sauté until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the rice and stir the mixture together to coat the rice with the shallots and butter.

Add the white wine, lower the heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the wine has evaporated. Begin adding the mushroom stock, a large ladleful at a time. Continue to add the mushroom stock (slowly and continuously), stirring constantly until the rice is just cooked through and all the stock has been absorbed, about 20 mins. The rice should be slightly al dente but have a creamy consistency and not dry.

Stir in the reserved mushrooms, the remaining tablespoon of butter, chives, and parsley. Top off the risotto with Pecorino Romano and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 6.

Pork Chops with Fennel

Pork Chops with Olives and Fennel

¼ c. extra-virgin olive oil

4 cloves garlic, crushed

4 pork rib chops, bone in

Salt and black pepper to taste

1 tbsp. fennel seeds, crushed

1 c. white wine

2 fennel bulbs, cored and quartered or cut into eighths

6 plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded, roughly chopped

¼ c. Gaeta olives, pitted

1 spring rosemary

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet with sides over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until it turns brown, and remove the garlic. Season the pork chops with salt and add them to the pan. Cook until one side is brown, then turn and brown the other side. Remove and reserve until later. Add the fennel seeds to the pan and cook for 1 minute (toast them lightly to release oils and flavor, watch closely to not  burn them).

Remove the pan from the heat and deglaze with wine. Return the pan to the heat and cook until wine nearly evaporates. Add the fennel pieces, tomatoes, olives and rosemary.

Bring the liquid to a simmer and add the pork chops back to the pan. Cover the pan and cook for 15-20 minutes more or until the internal temperature reaches 150 degrees F. Remove the chops and if liquid is too runny, reduce until it coats the back of a spoon.

This recipe can also be made with veal chops, and for extra flavor and to ensure juicy chops that won’t dry out, soak them in a brine overnight made out of 2 quarts of water, 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of salt and throw in some chopped up herbs such as rosemary or thyme.

Makes 4 servings.

Pollo alla Toscana

Pollo alla Toscana (Tuscan Chicken)

2 c. dried navy beans, soaked overnight (or canned beans drained and rinsed)

1/3 c. diced slab bacon or pancetta

2 (4 lb.) chickens, cut up into 8 pieces each

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Flour for dredging

1 medium yellow onion, diced small

2 celery ribs, diced small

1 garlic clove, minced

1 cup white wine (dry and crisp, such as Chablis)

2 sprigs fresh thyme

1 tsp. freshly minced rosemary

3 canned plum tomatoes, chopped

2 tbsp freshly minced parsley

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Drain and rinse the soaked beans. Discard the liquid.

In a medium saucepan, over high heat, bring 5 cups of water to a boil and add the rinsed and soaked beans. Cook them until they are soft, but not mushy. Drain the beans, but reserve the cooking liquid.

Cook the bacon in a large rondeau or Dutch oven until just browned. Using a slotted spoon put the bacon on paper towels to drain, reserving the fat in the pan.

Pat the chicken pieces dry, season with salt and papper and dredge in flour, shaking off any excess. Heat the bacon fat over high heat and when it is hot, add the chicken and cook, in batches, turning the pieces once, until the skin becomes golden brown and crisp. Remove the chicken and set aside.

Add the onions, celery and garlic and cook until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and deglaze with the wine. Return the pan to the heat and bring it to a boil, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan and reduce by 1/3. Return the chicken and bacon to the pan, add the beans, thyme, rosemary, tomatoes, and 2 cups of the reserved beans cooking liquid (liquid should come half way up the pan, use more or less accordingly). Cover, place in the oven and cook for about 40 minutes, until the chicken is no longer pink and most of the liquid has absorbed. You may have to add more liquid if it looks dry.

Season with salt and papper to taste and garnish with parsley.

Makes 8 servings.

Cipolline Onions

Cipolline Agro Dolce (Caramelized Cipolline Onions)

2 lbs. Cippoline onions

6 tbsp sugar

½ c. red wine vinegar

8 sage leaves

¾ c. extra-virgin olive oil

Salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare a large bowl of ice water and set aside.

Blanch the onions for 2 minutes in boiling water. With a slotted spoon, immediately remove the onions and place them in ice water. Remove when cool and peel removing the stem and first layer of skin.

In a large baking dish, mix the onions, sugar, vinegar, sage, olive oil, and salt making sure that onions are coated evenly (this makes a lot of liquid so you don’t need to use it all).

Bake in the oven for approx. 60 mins, or until the onions are well caramelized. Make sure to turn the onions and watch them while in the oven, taking care to not let them burn.

Makes 6 servings.

Pear and Fennel Salad

Pear and Fennel Salad

2 fennel bulbs, cored and cut into thin slices

8 cups mixed salad greens (red leaf, Bibb, Boston and Radiccio), washed and dried

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil

Freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon

3 red Bartlett or Bosc pears, cut in half, cored and thinly sliced

Combine the fennel with the salad greens. Refrigerate until ready to toss.

When ready to toss, add the salt and pepper, olive oil and lemon juice. Toss gently and arrange on individual plates or a platter. Top with the pear slices and serve.

Makes 6 servings.

Glazed Oranges and Biscotti

Oranges in Marsala Glaze

6 large navel oranges, peeled and pith removed (save one peel with pith removed)

¼ c. sugar

¾ c. sweet Marsala wine

½ c. Cointreau (orange liqueur)

12 mint leaves

In a small saucepan with boiling water, simmer the orange peel over high heat for 5 mins; drain and set aside. When cool, slice into julienne strips.

Separate each orange into sections, removing all membrane between sections. Place sectioned oranges in a large bowl, cover and chill.

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, Marsala, and Cointreau. Bring to a boil over medium heat until the mixture has reduced by half or until it becomes syrupy. Add orange peel strips to the syrup and chill. To serve, spoon orange sections into individual dessert dishes. Top with Marsala glaze. Garnish with mint leaves.

Tip: this dessert is delicious topped over Vanilla ice cream and served with Almond and Anise biscotti on the side.

Makes 6 servings.

Other Tuscan recipes you might enjoy:

Panzanella (Bread Salad)

Peach Bellini

Crostini with Roasted Eggplant

Olive Tapenade

Chicken Liver Pate

Pasta e Fagioli

Minestrone

Ribollita (Bread Soup)

Bistecca alla Florentine (Tuscan Steak)

Almond and Anise Biscotti

An Intimate Gathering: Holiday Dinner Party Menu


Since the holidays are rapidly approaching, I’m planning an intimate dinner party with friends featuring some of my favorite recipes to make a delicious, warming and elegant meal. Filet Mignon with Mushroom and Rosemary Sauce for the entree, Green Chile Macaroni and Cheese as a side, Pear, Arugula and Pancetta as an accompanying winter salad, and rich, decadent Chocolate Mousse for dessert.

Filet Mignon with Mushroom and Rosemary Sauce

Filet Mignon has always been one of my favorites, and it is one of the most elegant cuts of steak, and served medium rare is juicy, tender, and succulent. Top it off with a Mushroom wine sauce, serve it with a Pear, Gorgonzola and Walnut salad with Vinaigrette and a Cheesy Pasta side dish with a kick, and you’ve got an elegant dinner party menu for a small group of friends. I saw this recipe on Giada DeLaurentis’ show Giada at Home, and it caught my eye as the perfect dish for an intimate dinner party with friends around the holidays.

steak with mushroom sauce

Ingredients

Steaks:

Vegetable oil cooking spray

2 (8-ounce) filet mignon steaks

Kosher or Sea Salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil

Gravy:

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 large or 4 small shallots, minced

2 cups (about 5 ounces) assorted mushrooms, such as cremini, shiitake and button, coarsely chopped

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup dry Marsala wine

1 1/2 cups low-sodium beef broth

1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves

1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

Preparation:

Steak: Put an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a small baking sheet with vegetable oil cooking spray. Set aside. Season the steaks with salt and pepper, to taste. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the steaks and brown on all sides, about 4 minutes. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes for medium-rare doneness. Let the steaks rest for 5 minutes on a cutting board.

Gravy: In the same skillet used for the steak, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and mushrooms and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cook until the shallots are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and scrape up the brown bits that cling to the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 2 minutes. Stir in the beef broth and rosemary. Whisk in the flour until smooth. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until half of the liquid has evaporated and the sauce has thickened slightly, about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Cutting across the grain, slice the steak into 1/4-inch thick slices and arrange on a platter. Pour the sauce into a serving bowl and serve alongside the meat.

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Green Chile Macaroni and Cheese

Macaroni and Cheese is a classic comfort food and every year I go on a search for a new recipe and this one caught my eye. (Bon Appetit magazine Dec 2010 issue). This recipe originates from the popular Seattle restaurant, Roaring Fork by Chef Robert McGrath. It’s made with roasted poblano chile peppers which gives it a nice kick and extra texture and flavor to the cheesy goodness. The recipe calls for macaroni and red onion but I decided to substitute penne for the macaroni and shallots for the onion, and added a teaspoon of smoked paprika, extra cheddar cheese and a few slices of crumbled pancetta on top to dress it up a bit. You can also toss the pasta in a cast iron pan and top it off with some buttery panko bread crumbs and throw it in the oven for 30-40 minutes on 350 degrees for a crunchy delicious topping. It makes 6 appetizer or side-dish servings.

green chile mac and cheese

Ingredients:

1 whole fresh poblano chile plus 1/4 c. chopped fresh poblano chiles

1 tbsp corn oil

1/4 c. chopped red bell pepper

1/4 c. chopped red onion (or shallots)

1 garlic clove, minced

4-5 slices of pancetta, diced and cooked

1/2 c. fresh or frozen thawed corn kernels

3/4 c. whipping cream

1 tsp smoked paprika

2 c. fresh cooked macaroni (2/3 c. dried) or penne (or any tubular shaped pasta)

1/2 c. grated hot pepper Monterey Jack cheese

1/2 c. grated cheddar cheese

Topping: Melted butter and Panko bread crumbs, put entire dish in a cast iron pan, top

with buttered crumbs and bake in oven until topping is crunchy and golden

Preparation:

Char whole chile directly over gas flame or in broiler until blackened on all sides. Transfer to paper bag, seal. Let stand 15 mins. Peel, seed, and coarsely chop chile. Transfer to processor, puree until smooth.

Chop the pancetta and cook until crisp in a heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Remove bacon and drain on a small plate with paper towels and reserve some of the bacon drippings and add the oil back in to the pan.

Add 1/4 c. chopped chile, bell pepper, onion, and garlic. Saute until soft, about 4 mins. Add corn; stir 1 minute. Add cream and chile puree; bring to boil. Add macaroni and cheese; stir until cheese melts and mixture is heated through. Season with salt and pepper to taste and top with pancetta crumbles.

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Pear, Arugula and Pancetta Salad

This is one of my favorite winter salads made with peppery arugula, fresh sliced pears, pancetta and a crisp Champagne Vinaigrette. It goes perfect with the steak and pasta and gives a fresh flavor to the meal.

pear and arugula salad

For vinaigrette:

1 tablespoon Champagne vinegar

1 tablespoon mild honey

1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil

For salad:

2 oz thinly sliced pancetta (4 to 5 slices)

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 firm-ripe pears

4 cups baby arugula or torn larger arugula (1 1/4 lb)

3 oz ricotta salata, thinly shaved with a vegetable peeler

Toasted Walnuts for topping

Make vinaigrette: Whisk together vinegar, honey, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a salad bowl. Add oil in a slow stream, whisking until combined well.

Make salad:
 Cook pancetta in oil in a 10-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, turning frequently, until just crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain (pancetta will crisp as it cools). Tear into bite-size pieces.

Halve pears lengthwise, core, and cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Add pears to dressing along with arugula, cheese, and pancetta, tossing to coat. Top with a handful of toasted walnuts for some crunchy texture.

Read More: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Pear-Arugula-and-Pancetta-Salad-235734#ixzz16appSya9

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Chocolate Mousse

I can’t think anything else on the planet that I love more than chocolate. Whip up this delicious ingredient with brandy and cream and you’ve got the perfect French dessert – chocolate mousse. Dark and rich, creamy and decadent – it’s the perfect ending for a special dinner party with friends during the holidays. I found this recipe on Molly Wizenberg’s blog, Orangette (she’s one of my favorite Bon Appetit food writers, ever!). This recipe is adapted from the original recipe in Cook’s Illustrated, 2006.

chocolate mousse

Ingredients:

8 oz. Ghiradelli bittersweet chocolate, 60% cacao, finely chopped

2 Tbsp. Dutch-processed cocoa powder

1 tsp. instant espresso powder

5 Tbsp. water

1 Tbsp. brandy

2 large eggs, separated

1 Tbsp. sugar, divided

1/8 tsp. salt

1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. cold heavy cream

For serving:

Very lightly sweetened whipped cream and chocolate shavings

Combine the chocolate, cocoa powder, espresso powder, water, and whiskey in a medium heatproof bowl. Place over a saucepan filled with 1 inch of gently simmering water, and stir frequently until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat.

In another medium bowl, combine the egg yolks, 1 ½ teaspoons sugar, and salt. Whisk until the mixture lightens to a pale yellow color and thickens slightly, about 30 seconds. Pour the melted chocolate mixture into the egg mixture, and whisk until combined. Set aside for about 5 minutes, until just warmer than room temperature.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium-low speed until frothy. Add the remaining 1 ½ teaspoons sugar, increase the mixer speed to medium-high, and beat until soft peaks form when the whisk is lifted. Detach the whisk and bowl from the mixer, and whisk the last few strokes by hand, making sure to scrape up any unbeaten whites from the bottom of the bowl. Using the whisk, stir about ¼ of the beaten egg whites into the chocolate mixture, to lighten it. Then, using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the remaining egg whites until only a few white streaks remain.

In the now-empty mixer bowl, whip the heavy cream at medium speed until it begins to thicken. Increase the speed to high, and whip until soft peaks form when the whisk is lifted. Using a rubber spatula, fold the whipped cream into the mousse until no white streaks remain. Spoon into 6 to 8 individual serving dishes – I like to use teacups – or, if you’re feeling casual, mound it up in a single serving bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.

For best texture, let the mousse sit at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving. Serve with very lightly sweetened whipped cream and chocolate shavings.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

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