Mushroom and Caramelized Onion Lasagna

>> Friday, December 9, 2016


Mushroom and Onion White Lasagna


You may have noticed that one of our favorite meatless dinner combos contains mushrooms, caramelized onions, and cheese. These are the besties of Meatless Mondays, and they can show up for dinner anytime. Of course, we shave off a lot of fat by using fat-free dairy and just a tiny amount of oil. If you use Barilla's no-boil lasagna sheets, which are awesome, you save a whole lot of time and don't have to handle those boiling-hot floppy boiled noodles.

Ingredients

For the white sauce

4 cups milk
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
4 tbsp butter
1/3 cup flour
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp nutmeg

For the lasagna

2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
12 oz mushrooms, thinly sliced
2/3 cup yellow onion, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp thyme leaves, minced
12 sheets Barilla no-cook lasagna sheets (or regular lasagna, cooked)

Directions

Heat the milk and broth in a medium saucepan until nearly simmering. In a separate pan, melt the butter, then whisk in the flour until smooth and slightly browned. Slowly whisk it into the milk, then add the salt, pepper, Parmesan, and nutmeg, and simmer until thick and creamy, about 10 minutes.

Grease a 9x12 baking dish, and heat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large frying pan, melt half the butter and oil over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and saute until tender and slightly browned. Set aside, then melt the rest of the butter and oil. Add the onions and cover for 5 minutes. Remove the lid, then add the sugar, reduce the heat to medium, and saute until soft, brown, and caramelized. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the mushrooms, thyme, salt and pepper into the frying pan and cook and stir 2 minutes more.

Spread about 1/4 cup of sauce in the bottom of the baking dish. Arrange 3 lasagna noodles on the bottom, then spread with 1/3 of the remaining white sauce. Sprinkle with half of the mushroom-onion mixture. Add three more lasagna sheets, then pour in the next 1/3 of the white sauce. Add the last three lasagna noodles and top with the rest of the white sauce. Sprinkle with the remainder of the mushrooms and caramelized onions.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes, until the lasagna is bubbly and cooked through. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. We usually add a little more Parmesan cheese to our individual servings.

Serves 6-8.

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Minnesota Cream of Turkey & Wild Rice Soup

>> Monday, November 28, 2016



Minnesota Cream of Turkey & Wild Rice Soup


I think this is one of the best ways we've ever used up leftover Thanksgiving turkey. Don't get me wrong, I'm still a fan of moist white meat on soft white bread, mayo, and a little lettuce for some color. Joe's not giving up his Moist-Maker Thanksgiving sandwich, in which there's an extra piece of bread in the middle soaked in gravy. But this. Oh, I like this a lot.


Minnesota Cream of Turkey & Wild Rice Soup


This recipe started out as a classic Minnesota turkey & wild rice soup from my niece Jackie in Minnesota. That state is the biggest producer of both turkeys and wild rice, which has to be harvested by hand. In Minnesota, Native Americans harvest the rice, and it doesn't sound easy.

Along the research path Joe and I also stopped for a discussion on the brilliant Campbell's Soup Company campaign in the 60s and 70s, where they promoted recipes using their cream soup. Who doesn't remember a casserole or hot dish* that used cream of mushroom soup? The funny thing is, Jackie's husband is in charge of the Progresso Soup line. Maybe someday they'll trademark her recipe.

Ingredients

1 tbsp oil
1 large onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
2 peeled carrots, diced
3 cups cooked turkey, diced
4 cups chicken, turkey, or vegetable broth
2 cans cream of chicken soup (we used the low-sodium, low fat kind)
1 can cream of mushroom soup
10 oz. Velveeta cheese, cubed (we used the reduced-fat kind)
1 cup cooked wild rice (or more, depending on your taste)

Instructions

Saute the vegetables in the oil until tender. Pour in the broth. Stir in the turkey, wild rice, and soup. Slowly stir in the cheese until melted, and heat until thick and bubbly.

Serves 4-6.

* Click here to learn more about Midwestern food and cream soups - interesting!

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Joe's Crab Cakes

>> Sunday, November 6, 2016


Maryland Crab Cakes


Joe doesn't own Joe's Crab Shack, unfortunately, but his Maryland crab cakes are fabulous. While imitation crab isn't our first choice for making these, they taste surprisingly good in this recipe and are budget-friendly. Canned crab, which you can probably find next to the canned tuna, is also good.

A few weeks ago our local grocery store advertised a great sale on crab sticks. When Joe got to the store, there wasn't a single package in the store. Apparently they were held up on some dock somewhere. Was it a customs problem or maybe contamination? I could write a thriller about the crab embargo; would you read it? Anyway, it's been two weeks now, and the store keeps advertising the sale so I assume they're expecting the crab shipment shortly. I just hope they've been frozen all this time.

Ingredients

1 lb. lump crab meat (or imitation crab - not as good, but not bad!)
1/3 c finely chopped green onion (white onion with some chives)
1/3 c finely chopped celery
1/4 c finely chopped red pepper
1 small clove garlic finely minced
1 egg
3 tbsp mayonnaise
2 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
1 1/2 tsp creole seasoning
1 tsp lemon juice
1 1/2 c soft bread crumbs
2 tbsp butter (divided)
2 tbsp olive oil (divided)

Joe's Crab Cakes


Instructions

Rinse and sort crab from small pieces of shell, leaving lumps as large as possible.

Heat 1 tbsp each of butter and olive oil over low heat in a large, preferrably non-stick skillet. Slowly saute the onions until starting to soften for about 3 minutes, then add in the celery and red pepper sauting for 3 minutes, then add the garlic and saute until tender and the onions are just starting to brown, but before the minced garlic burns.

In a small mixing bowl whisk the egg until beaten, then mix in the mayonaise, dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, and creole seasoning. Fold in the sauteed vegatables and soft bread crumbs, mixing well. Gently stir in the crab meat. Hand form into patties with about 1/2 cup of crab cake mixture, and place on a parchment lined tray/plate. Refrigerate for up to 1 hour (no less than 10 minutes).

Heat the remaining 1 tbsp each of butter and olive oil in a skillet over medium low heat. Carefully place the crab cake patties so they are not touching - about 4 to a skillet at a time. Cook for about 5 minutes then gently flip over and cook for another 4 to 5 minutes, checking each side for browness, and making sure they are cooked through. Transfer to a warm platter and cook the remaining crab cakes. Yield - approximately eight 2 1/2" crab cakes.

Serve with wasabi mayonnaise drizzled over cakes, or with a aioli sauce.

Variation: Form into 1" patties and cook as above being careful not to burn. Serve as an appetizer.

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Zuppa Toscana (Potato and Sausage Soup with Kale)

>> Monday, October 24, 2016


Zuppa Toscana (Potato and Sausage Soup with Kale)

Our daughters both worked at the local Red Lobster early in their job careers. This meant that they received discounts to all the Darden-brand restaurants, including the local Olive Garden, Outback Steakhouse, and Bahama Breeze. Their favorite was Olive Garden, so we used to have lovely girl-dates there with the all-you-can-eat soup and salad lunches.

This recipe is a re-creation of Olive Garden's Zuppa Toscana, an Italian sausage, potato, and kale soup with a splash of cream. We made a few tweaks for our own tastes. We lightened up by using low-fat chicken sausage and fat-free half and half, and we added spinach for extra vitamins and fiber. The result was so good that we've eaten it over and over again. This is not a soup that takes all day to make; you can whip it up within an hour.

Re-creation of Olive Garden's Zuppa Toscana

Joe approached the idea of soup with spinach and kale with some trepidation, since he still bears the scars of childhood when he was served boiled greens as a glop of mush. But the kale held its texture during cooking, and we stirred in the baby spinach right at the end. It gave a delicate flavor while holding its shape in the creamy, brothy deliciousness.

Potato and sausage soup with kale


I think I need to go make another pot. Did I mention it takes less than an hour to make?

Ingredients

6 large red-skinned potatoes, scrubbed
1 medium yellow onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground fennel
1 quart chicken broth
1 lb. fully-cooked smoked or Italian chicken sausages
2 cups kale, washed and drained
2 cups baby spinach, washed and drained
1 pint fat-free half and half
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Slice the potatoes and onions 1/2 inch thick and place them in a large pot. Add the garlic, cayenne, nutmeg, and fennel. Pour in the chicken broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cover. 

Slice the cooked sausages into irregular 1/2 inch pieces. Coarsely chop the kale. When the potatoes are nearly tender, stir the sausage and kale into the pot and continue simmering until the potatoes are tender, about 20-30 minutes.

Coarsely chop the spinach and stir it into the soup. Pour in the half and half and add salt and pepper. Heat through for 5 minutes before serving.

Makes about 2 quarts of soup.

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Brazilian-Style Collard Greens

>> Sunday, October 16, 2016




Brazilian-Style Collard Greens



I confess I don't know much at all about Southern Cooking - I'm about as Yankee as you can get. Like most Midwesterners about my age, we ate green leafy things in two ways - as boiled spinach in gloppy slimy wads, and as green salads, mostly full of iceberg lettuce or maybe a shredded cabbage coleslaw.

Collard greens definitely looked like the slimy blobs of spinach I never wanted to eat again, but hey, millions of southern Americans must be on to something, right?

Last year, Joe and I were exploring the Chicago History Museum in Lincoln Park, and just a few blocks away was a soul food restaurant with a yummy emphasis on Creole/Cajun dishes. Oh heck yeah, we were there. 

Epiphany Restaurant is not a fancy place, and the service is notoriously slow. The best way to enjoy the place is to order a bottle of wine when you sit down, and go there on a night when you've been busy all week and have a lot of catching up to do with your partner or friends. You'll be enjoying things in long, slow Cajun courses.

We loved the etouffee, fried oysters, and dirty rice, but the Brazilian-style collard greens were much more than we expected. These weren't clots of gooey greens - these were bright green leaves full of saucy flavor and a zing of orange zest. Healthy, too!  We went home, harvested the last of the summer greens from our garden, and got to work re-creating this dish.

Ingredients

3 slices bacon
2 pounds collard greens (2 to 3 large bunches)
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup finely diced red pepper
1 1/2 tsp orange zest
1/4 cup strong chicken broth
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Instructions

Fry the bacon in a large, wide skillet until crisp. Let the bacon drain on paper towels, and then chop it well. Leave the bacon grease in the pan.

Rinse off the collard greens. Remove the largest stems, then gather bunches of the leaves together and roll them up into a bundle. Thinly slice the bundles crosswise, cutting the leaves into very thin strips.

Sliced collard greens


Heat up the bacon grease and add the garlic and red pepper. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables are just golden and fragrant. Add the greens and toss for about 3 minutes, until they are bright green and softened. Stir in the chicken broth, then sprinkle on the salt and pepper. Serve warm.

Serve 4-6.

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Red Cabbage and Apples in Red Wine Sauce

>> Friday, October 7, 2016

red cabbage and apples sauteed in red wine


Cabbage is not one of those things you find in our house on a regular basis. Joe has a childhood block against cabbage, but likes a bit of mild sauerkraut, cole slaw, or some of those kinder, gentler cabbages like Napa or Bok Choy.

I loooooovvvveee cabbage. Oh, how I love corned beef and cabbage, Reuben sandwiches, or any form of sauerkraut or coleslaw or that cabbage salad with the crispy ramen noodles and almonds. My problem is, cabbage doesn't like me at all. It's delicious, but not quite so fun later on.

Oh, then we found this recipe. Glorious violet cabbages with glossy skins are burgeoning in our stores, and we had some sharp and sweet apples better for cooking than eating out of hand. We had to at least give them a try, and we've made it twice more in the last six weeks.

This is a traditional German recipe but I bet lots of other cold-weather countries have found the same sort of combination of sweet-sour cabbage that simmers out the harsh taste. I'm pretty sure this will be on our table until fresh cabbages are no longer in season.

Ingredients

2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp sugar
1 cup sliced onion
2 Granny Smith or other tart apples, peeled, cored, and coarsely chopped
6 cups shredded red cabbage (this is about half of a large red cabbage)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 cups beef broth
Salt and pepper to taste
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp flour
1 cup red wine

Instructions

In a large skillet, melt the butter. Stir in the sugar until melted. Add the onion and apples saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Turn up the heat and add the cabbage, glazing them with the butter and sugar.

braising Red Cabbage and Apples


Add the bay leaf, salt and pepper, then pour in the red wine vinegar and 1 cup of the beef broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes, until the cabbage is starting to get tender. Sprinkle with the flour and stir well.

Sprinkle the flour over the cabbage and toss well to mix. Stir in the wine and the remaining broth. Simmer gently for a few minutes, until the sauce is thickened. Remove the bay leaf and serve.

Serves 6 as a side dish.

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Butternut Squash Risotto

>> Monday, September 26, 2016



Butternut Squash Risotto


It amazes me that risotto cooks up so creamy and tender just from the right amount of liquid stirred in at the right time. The original recipe I found for squash risotto called for a lot of butter and oil, but I don't miss it a bit in our lower-fat version. Butternut squash deserves its name; it tastes buttery to me.

Ingredients

1 average-sized butternut squash, seeded, peeled, and cut up
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2/3 cup onion, chopped
2 oz pancetta or bacon, finely chopped
2 cups arborio rice or medium-grain rice
5 cups vegetable or chicken broth
3 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste


Directions

Steam or microwave the squash until fork-tender.

In a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the onion and bacon and stir until soft. Add the rice and toast it slightly, coating it with oil.


Butternut Squash Risotto


Slowly stir in 1/2 cup broth, stirring until absorbed. Continue to add broth in half-cup portions, stirring each time until absorbed. Before adding the last cup of broth, stir in the squash, parmesan, and salt and pepper; stir until well mixed.

Stir in the last cup of broth. When the broth is absorbed and the rice is al dente, the dish is ready.

Serves 4.

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Pork Medallions and Mushrooms in Brandy Cream Sauce

>> Monday, September 12, 2016




This is one of those absolutely exquisite dishes that I dream about for weeks after tasting it. If you really want to make a special meal for someone, this is the one to make. I made it for Joe's birthday this year and it was a very happy birthday for him!

The New German Cookbook, where we got the inspiration for this recipe, translates the dish as Schweinemedaillons en Weinbrand-Sauce. I confess I don't know how to pronounce this, though I should know more German than how to be polite and order a beer.

Anyway, the sauce is the most exquisite part of this dish. Once I cleaned my plate, I ran my finger over the dish to get the last bits of gravy. The night we made this, I intended to make fresh egg spaetzle (tiny German dumpling-noodles), but it was getting late, so I just cooked up some rotini. It was a mistake. Please, please go all the way and make the spaetzle, which is more tender than pasta and will soak up the luscious sauce. It's really not hard to make spaetzle. My family recipe is here: Detzner Spaetzle Recipe.

This would also be good over mashed potatoes or rice, instead of spaetzle.

Ingredients

1 pound pork tenderloin, sliced 1/2" thick
4 tbsp butter
1/4 cup brandy
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup beef broth
1 pound mushrooms, cleaned and thinly sliced (the recipe book called for Black Forest or Polish black mushrooms; we used baby portobellos)
1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 cups half-and-half
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.

Melt 2 tbsp of the butter in a large skillet, then brown the pork on both sides over a medium-high heat. Set in a baking dish and cover with foil, then keep it warm in the oven.


Pan-roasting pork loin medallions


Pour the brandy and wine into the skillet and simmer over medium heat, scraping up the browned bits. Add the broth and boil, uncovered, until reduced by half. Pour the brandy mixture over the pork and return it to the oven.


Pork medallions and mushrooms roasting in juices


Melt the last 2 tbsp of butter in the skillet, then saute the mushrooms, onion, and garlic until soft. Add the pork and sauce back into the skillet, then stir in the half-and-half. Simmer on low for 10-15 minutes, until the cream sauce thickens and reduces by half. Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve with rice, noodles, or potatoes.

Serves 4-6.

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Pizza-Stuffed Squash Boats

>> Monday, August 29, 2016


Pizza-Stuffed Squash Boats


A few days ago I received a giant zucchini squash from a friend - I mean, this was a monster, 15 inches long and about 4 inches wide. Immediately I thought of stuffing it with something, and rummaged through the pantry for inspiration. Some good Italian sausage rounded it out nicely, and we had a carb-free pizza dinner.

One year growing up in the country, our family tried the Great Zucchini Experiment. We decided to cultivate a half acre of squash to sell at the farmer's market. Farmer's markets in that place and time were not filled with trendy gourmet and organic premium vendors; these were farmers selling directly to the produce buyers for canneries, factories, and grocery stores.

Our family plan was to work together on the zucchini plot and split the profits based on the amount of work we each put in. Being the baby and somewhat babied, I am sure I put in the least amount of work, but every Saturday before dawn I'd load up baskets of the squash into the old pickup and we'd sit with the other farmers in our folding lawn chairs while the buyers browsed.

Week after week, no one bought from us. We couldn't understand it. My mom sent me out to scout the competition, and I reported back that we had the biggest squash at the market, way bigger than anyone else's. The squash we weren't selling went week after week into the freezer or onto the table until we all thought we'd die of zucchini poisoning.

Finally mom asked a farmer friend to come take a look at our stock and tell us what we were doing wrong. He picked up a ginormous zucchini. "These are way too big. Seeds get hard in there and they taste bitter; nobody wants to buy them like that." He told us the produce folks were looking for ones about 4 inches long and 2 wide, with evenly green, unblemished skin and a high gloss. They looked for a fresh stem end, too, so we were best off picking them the day of the market if we could.

So that's what makes for the best and freshest squash, and those are the ones I recommend looking for when you're shopping. We took his advice and picked with flashlights in the early morning to get the freshest ones to the market. And it was many years before I could make myself eat zucchini again, after the Williams Zucchini Collective folded.

Ingredients

1 pound Italian sausage
1 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup green pepper, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 14-oz. can pizza sauce, or 1 can tomato puree with 1 tsp oregano and 2 tsp basil
1/3 cup water
3 squash, 4-5 inches long
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated

Directions

Take the sausage out of its casing and brown it in a medium skillet until it is crumbly and completely cooked. Set it aside in a bowl, and saute the onion, pepper, and garlic until tender. Add the sausage, sauce, and water, and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Slice the squashes in half lengthwise and cut off the stem end. Cut out the seeds from the center of each half. Place the squash face-down on a plate and microwave on high for 10 minutes, or until the squash is tender.

Spray a baking sheet with oil. Place the squash rind-side down and fill with the sausage mixture. Sprinkle with the cheeses, then put it the oven. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the filling is cooked through and the cheese is melted and bubbly.

Serves 4-6.

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Red Lobster's Cheddar Bay Biscuits (lower fat version)

>> Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Red Lobster's Cheddar Bay Biscuits


Both of our girls worked at Red Lobster when they were in high school, but Joe and I never got tired of those buttery cheesy biscuits. They've been out of the Darden restaurant chain for years now; Joe and I had to come up with a new biscuit recipe that tasted the same but was lower in fat and calories than the original.

This works pretty well and satisfies my unending craving for breads soaked in garlic butter and cheese. Don't judge me - the first step of addiction is admitting I have a problem.


Ingredients

2 cups light Bisquick biscuit mix
2/3 cup skim milk
1/2 cup low-fat sharp cheddar, shredded
1/4 cup butter
1/2 garlic clove, minced, or 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon parsley

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Stir the biscuit mix and cheese together in a mixer bowl, then slowly add the milk while mixing on low speed. When a sticky dough forms, scrape down the sides of the bowl, then mix on high speed for 30 seconds.

Spray a baking pan with oil. Drop 12 spoonfuls of dough onto the pan. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until golden brown.

While the biscuits are baking, microwave the butter, garlic, and parsley until the butter is melted. Brush over the biscuits before removing them from the baking sheet. Serve warm.

Makes 12 biscuits.

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Pesto Potato Salad Nicoise

>> Wednesday, August 10, 2016


Pesto Potato Salad Nicoise


This main-dish potato salad is a delightfully different take on the ordinary summer staple. It combines the classic French nicoise salad with a creamy pesto-based dressing. Perfect for our memories of Nice, which also remind Joe of Italy.





The last time Joe was in Nice, he was there on business for a French pharmaceutical company. He didn't get to enjoy much of the seaside life until his day off. Then he went on a countryside run that skirted the Mediterranean nearly to San Remo over the Italian border, before heading back for lunch. He ordered a classic salade Niçoise, which is usually a cold composed salad of potatoes, olives, tomatoes, sardines, tuna, and green beans.

Our version is a a cool summer salad that looks pretty fancy on a platter and gives you something new to do with potato salad. I've already made it a couple of times this summer - and ate the leftovers yesterday at lunch.

Pesto Potato Salad Nicoise


Ingredients

For the pesto

3 tbsp basil leaves
2 tbsp Parmesan cheese, grated
2 tbsp pine nuts
1/2 tsp lemon juice
3 tbsp olive oil

For the salad

2 eggs
6 medium potatoes, scrubbed
2 cups green beans, rinsed and cut in half
1 stalk celery, diced
1/2 cup white onion, finely sliced
1 6-oz can tuna packed in water, drained
1/4 cup black olives, sliced
1 tbsp anchovy paste
2 tsp salt
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tsp lemon juice
2 large tomatoes, cut into wedges
1 head of romaine lettuce, separated into leaves

Directions

Blend together all pesto ingredients until smooth. Stir together with the mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt, and anchovy paste, and chill the sauce.

Boil the eggs and potatoes until the potatoes are just tender; drain and rinse with cold water. Chill, then cut the potatoes into bite-sized chunks and the eggs into wedges. Place the green beans in boiling water and blanch for 3 minutes, then immerse them in cold water to stop the cooking. 

In a large bowl, stir together the potatoes, green beans, celery, onion, tuna, olives, and sauce. Place the lettuce leaves on individual plates or a large platter. Mound the salad on the lettuce, then arrange the egg and tomato wedges around the salad. 

Serves 4-6.

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Potatoes Gratin Savoyard

>> Tuesday, August 2, 2016


Potatoes Gratin Savoyard

Potatoes au gratin, or scalloped potatoes, are one of my favorite ways to make spuds, because what's better than a casserole of cream, butter, cheese, and potatoes? Well, we found something even better. Yes we did.

Flipping through Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking", I found this recipe for a casserole of potatoes cooked with butter, beef broth, and plenty of Swiss cheese. The flavor is astounding. It makes regular potatoes au gratin seem bland and boring.

Like always, we did our best to lighten up this recipe. I can't imagine how the French could eat like this every day without an epidemic of heart disease. Maybe French butter is healthier, or something.

Scalloped potatoes

Ingredients

6 cups red-skinned potatoes, sliced 1/8" thick
4 tbsp butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup grated low-fat Swiss cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup hot beef broth

Directions

Soak the potatoes in cold water for 15 minutes, to remove the sticky starch from the surface. Dry on paper towels.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 10-inch round or 9x12 square casserole dish with cooking spray. Spread half the potatoes in the dish, then dot with half the butter and cheese. Spread the rest of the potatoes on top, and add the rest of the butter and cheese.

Stir together the garlic, salt and pepper, and broth. Pour over the potatoes. 

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the potatoes are tender and the cheese is slightly browned on top.

Serves 6.

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Roasted Poblano and Chihuahua Cheese Enchiladas

>> Tuesday, July 26, 2016


Roasted Poblano and Chihuahua Cheese Enchiladas


My friend Sheilja recently taught me to make some traditional Northern Indian foods; last week I invited her over to make some traditional Mexican foods I learned from my mother-in-law. I made vegetarian versions of the food because Sheilja doesn't eat meat. But the enchilada roja sauce can be used to stew chicken, and the enchiladas can be stuffed with anything you like - there are no rules about the insides of enchiladas!

There are, however, some strong ideas about what goes into a red enchilada sauce. Purists, and I suspect my teacher Mama Nona, would claim that the sauce should not contain tomatoes, so I didn't include any. But if you'd like to add some chopped tomato or a bit of tomato paste, I think you should cook what makes you happy.

Ingredients

For the Enchilada Roja Sauce

6 cloves garlic, unpeeled
5 medium dried guajillo or pasilla chiles
5 medium dried ancho chiles
1 medium red bell pepper, cored and sliced
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp oregano
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 tsp salt
½ tsp sugar

Heat a heavy skillet or griddle over medium then lay the garlic on one side to roast. Flip the garlic around in the pan until it is toasted on both sides, but not so brown that it gets bitter.

Tear the chiles into flat pieces and, few at a time, press them against the hot surface until they blister and change color. Flip them over and press again. Remove chiles and garlic from heat and place in a bowl, then cover with the broth. Soak in hot broth for 15 minutes.

Toast the cumin seeds on the hot skillet until fragrant and slightly browned. Place in a blender or food processor. Peel the garlic and remove the stems from the chiles. Put all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Add a little more water if needed; this should be a thick liquid, not a paste. Strain out the seeds.

For the enchiladas 


16-18 corn tortillas
5 poblano peppers
4 cups shredded chihuahua cheese
3 cups enchilada roja sauce
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 cups shredded lettuce
1/4 cup cotija cheese

Directions

Heat the broiler or grill. Place the peppers on a broiler pan or cookie sheet. Broil or grill close to the heat until the exposed side is blotchy, black, and peeling. Turn over the peppers and roast until both sides are blistered and the skin is blackened.

Place the peppers in a paper bag and allow to steam for 15 minutes. This will help you peel the blackened parts off. When finished steaming, cut off the stem and scrape the charred skin and seeds off with a knife. Cut the peppers into thin strips.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x12 casserole pan, then spread out 1/2 cup of sauce in the bottom of the pan. On a flat griddle or frying pan, heat the corn tortillas until soft and pliable.

Pour half of the enchilada sauce onto a plate, and lay a tortilla on the plate. Add several strips of pepper and about 1/4 cup cheese.  Roll up the tortilla and place, seam side down, in the casserole pan. Repeat with the remaining tortillas, then drizzle with the remaining sauce. Sprinkle the cotija cheese over the top.

Cover the pan with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes, until the centers are cooked and the casserole is heated through. Top with tomato and lettuce before serving.

Serves 6-8.

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Coconut Basmati Rice

>> Wednesday, July 20, 2016


Creamy and savory coconut basmati rice


This coconut rice dish is deceptively simple - only 5 ingredients, and 20 minutes to prepare! It's also subtly flavored by the basmati rice and creamy coconut milk. Adjust the amount of jalapeno pepper to your taste, or leave it out completely if you prefer. We like this side dish with grilled fish, but it's pretty versatile side for other meals.

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups basmati rice
1 13.5 oz can low fat coconut milk
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1 tbsp Thai birds-eye or jalapeno pepper, minced
3 stalks green onions, chopped

Directions

Rinse and drain the rice until the water runs clear - washing off the surface starch helps prevent the rice from getting sticky or gummy.

Add all ingredients to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and let it simmer for 17-20 minutes, until the rice is just tender and fluffy. 

Makes 4-6 servings.

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Carrot Romesco Sauce

>> Monday, July 11, 2016


Carrot Romesco Sauce


This carrot romesco sauce came straight from Bon Appetit, and we used it as a sauce for a luscious roasted pork loin, as the editors suggested. We seem to have gotten all kinds of photos during the romesco-making part of the evening, and none of the pork. Oh well.

In fact, you don't even need to use this as a sweet-salty and unusual sauce for pork. We made scads of this (that's right, scads) and used it for a veggie dip and bruschetta topping, too.

If you're new to romesco sauce, Bon Appetit describes it as being to Spanish cooking what pesto is to Italian cooking. It finishes as a thick paste, and if we hadn't been busy slathering on to everything we ate that week, we would have planned ahead and tossed it with some pasta. Analogies give one all kinds of ideas, don't they?

Ingredients

¼ cup pine nuts or chopped pecans
1½ pounds carrots, peeled and cut lengthwise into quarters
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
Salt and black pepper to taste
½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, divided
1 tsp marjoram, minced

Instructions

Preheat oven to 450°.

Toast nuts in a small skilled for a few minutes, until slightly browned and fragrant. Let cool.



carrot romesco sauce


Spread half the oil on a baking sheet, then arrange the carrots on the sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast until tender and slightly browned, about 15 minutes. Let cool.


carrot romesco sauce


Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender, along with 1 tbsp of water. Process until it forms a thick paste, scraping down the sides occasionally and adding more water if necessary.

While spreading this on thick slices of juicy pork loin is optional, I recommend it highly. Or spread it on toast rounds and place under the broiler until bubbly. Or toss with a green salad and more wine vinegar. Or...?

Makes about 2 cups of sauce.

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Avocado Cream Soup

>> Tuesday, July 5, 2016


Avocado Cream Soup


Joe called me from the local grocery store on his way home from work. "I'm at the reduced produce rack, and there's a bag of perfectly ripe avocados for $1.99. There's about ten in the bag. Could you use that?" I checked the refrigerator and said, "Sure, I've got a great idea."

This soup is everything I love about guacamole - the tangy bit of lime, the luscious creaminess of the avocados, the savory garlic. Joe added some tortilla chips left over from the elote dip we'd just made, but tortilla chips are really just a vehicle for avocados, aren't they? I don't know about you, but when I'm standing in front of a bowl of guacamole, all I really want is a spoon.

We had the soup hot for dinner on a night that was peculiarly cold for August in Illinois. I whipped up a batch of cheddar dill biscuits to go with it. The next afternoon, it was warm and humid again, so I had it cold for lunch and took these photos. Next time, I think I'll add some chopped tomatoes to the cold soup.

Ingredients

4 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp olive oil
8 ripe avocados
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1 1/2 cups fat-free half-and-half
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
Juice of 1 fresh lime
1/4 cup sherry or dry white wine (optional)
2 cups tortilla chips

Directions

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut off the root end of the garlic cloves and place them in a small oven-safe dish or pan. Drizzle with the oil, then roast about 15-20 minutes, until the garlic is browned and fragrant.

Peel and dice all but one avocado. Place half of the avocados, garlic, and cilantro in a blender and add half of the cream. Puree the mixture, then pour into a bowl and repeat with the other half of the avocados, cilantro, garlic, and half-and-half. 

Pour the stock, salt, pepper, and lime into a large saucepan and heat to a boil. Reduce heat; when the stock is simmering slowly, pour in the avocado mixture and stir well. Stir in the wine, if using. 

Serve immediately if you want hot soup; chill for 2-4 hours for cold soup. Slice up the last avocado and sprinkle the tortilla chips and avocado slices over the bowls before serving. 

Serves 6.

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Caribbean Rum Punch

>> Tuesday, June 28, 2016


Caribbean Rum Punch


Want to make a big pitcher of punch for cookout guests? This Caribbean punch is sweet and smooth and just right for hot summer days. During one of our trips to the Caribbean, we sampled a number of rum punches and asked everyone we met how they made theirs. After lots of sampling and trial and error, we formulated a luscious recipe.

Barbados, hidden beach
Barbados, hidden beach

The secret is to use juices you'd find on Caribbean islands, like papaya and guanabana. They may be easier to find than you think! Check your grocery store's canned fruit juice aisle. The authentic touch is the fresh cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon - the native plants that give the Caribbean islands the nickname "The Spice Islands".

St. Lucia, fishing boat
St. Lucia, fishing boat

Make it up a few hours before serving, and keep stirring while you serve it, as the heavier spices tend to settle on the bottom. Serve with plenty of ice. In our experience, it's better not to make it too strong, since it goes down quick and easy on a hot summer day.

There's a traditional island song that celebrates rum punch (Planter's Punch), and will help you remember how to make it without a recipe. In Barbados, they say, "One of sour, two of sweet, three of strong, four of weak." The best rum punch we had, though was on a visit to Roseau, Domenica after tubing down the Layou  River. When we asked about the recipe, our host showed us the prickly green soursop fruit and sliced open a papaya so we could take some fresh slices with our drink. Tasty.

Every time the neighbors get together in the summer, we bring a couple of pitchers of this punch. Our downstairs neighbors have traveled all around the Caribbean, like us, and they say this was the best punch they ever had. Win.

Ingredients

1 cup lime juice
2 cups cold simple syrup (1 cup of sugar dissolved in one cup of hot water)
3 cups amber or dark rum
2 cups orange juice
1 cup guanabana (soursop) or pineapple juice
1 cup mango or papaya juice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cloves
Fruit slices, for garnish

Directions

Stir together all ingredients. Let it chill for 30 minutes in the fridge. Pour over ice in tall glasses and garnish with fruit slices. A pretty straw is highly recommended.

Makes about 20 4-oz servings.

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Country-Style Strawberry Shortcake

>> Monday, June 13, 2016


Country-Style Strawberry Shortcake


A few years ago, my friend Talea had me over for lunch one summer day. This rustic, buttery shortcake was going to be our dessert, so she had to bake it first to be sure it would cool while we ate. When it came out of the oven, though, it was so fragrant and crumbly that we dived into it, and skipped "lunch" altogether. It was so good.

When I was growing up in the country in Southwestern Michigan, my parents grew strawberries and a lot of other produce. Every summer after school was out we'd be picking strawberries for our breakfasts and stirring big pots of jam. When I got older, I worked on other farms picking fruit in the summertime: berries, peaches, cherries. If you've never picked fruit, let me tell you that the people harvesting these lovely berries are probably crouched down or crawling along rows of short strawberry hills with aching backs. It's hard work. Please, treasure the little bites!


Country-Style Strawberry Shortcake


June and strawberries are always linked together in my mind - as strawberries and my birthday are. I made this for my birthday dinner last night after a big dinner of steak with brandy peppercorn-cream sauce and sweet potato fries. I'm surprised I had any room left for dessert.


Country-Style Strawberry Shortcake


Ingredients

2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar plus 1 tsp
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 c. butter
2 eggs, separated
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp lemon or orange zest
1 pint of strawberries, sliced
8 oz whipped cream

Directions

Combine all ingredients except egg whites. Form soft dough, then shape into 6 rounds 1/2 inch thick. Brush with egg white and sugar. Bake at 425 degrees for 12-15 minutes, until the tops are golden and the shortcake is cooked through. Cool slightly on rack. Cut in half and serve warm or at room temperature topped with berries and whipping cream.

Serves 6.

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Romanian Chicken Paprikash

>> Friday, May 27, 2016


Romanian Chicken Paprikash


This gorgeous dish comes from Joe's high school friend Pam Friel Swan, who learned it from her mother-in-law. When she sent it to us, she labeled it Marie's Puppedykash. We are still trying to find out what puppedykash means; Joe wonders if it's a way of saying the meal in Romanian, and I'm guessing it was how kids pronounced it and it stuck. For example, my daughter Jenn used to call muffins "nuppins"; the silly middle-schooler in me is still tempted to call beef stroganoff "beef strokin-off".

I'm so sorry I said that. Should I have kept that between me and Joe? Yes, a silly eighth-grader's humor pops into my mind at awkward times. Most of the time I'm able to keep it from popping right out my mouth, but I thought maybe you ought to get to know me a little better. :)

So, chicken paprikash. This is one of Hungary's signature dishes, along with goulash. But many other Slavic countries in Eastern Europe have a similar dish, and this particular one is more like a Romanian preparation than a Hungarian one. Who wouldn't love a nice cut-up chicken simmered with vegetables and paprika and broth, then finished in a velvety sour cream sauce?


Countries with Slavic roots, as of 2009
These Central and Eastern European countries have Slavic roots.

Now you get a mental image of those Central and Eastern European countries - which I've heard are stunningly beautiful, inexpensive to visit, and friendly to strangers - aren't you in the mood to whip up something authentic that those immigrants brought with them to America? This supper is wonderfully hands-off: 15 minutes on the front end, about an hour of cooking, and then sauce prep at the end. You can very easily convert this to all all-day crock pot recipe and mix up the sour cream at the end so it doesn't curdle.

We served this with basic German spaeztle noodles, but Joe's friend recommends serving "with thick crusty bread. We use French or Italian, or some kind of thick peasant-y type bread." Soak up every last bit of this luscious gravy. This is also a great recipe for a crowd; you can make it a day in advance and I promise you the flavors will be even better on Day 2.


Chicken Leg quarters in sweet paprika broth

Ingredients

2 tbsp oil
2 tbsp butter
1 cup onions, chopped
2 tbsp Hungarian Paprika – Marie uses half regular and half hot
8 pieces of skinless chicken – We use chicken leg quarters, but Marie uses 6 boneless breasts and thighs
48 oz. chicken stock
16 oz sour cream (We use low-fat sour cream)
¾ cup flour

Instructions

Melt the butter and oil in a very large pan. Add the onions and paprika to the butter. Cook until the onions are soft. Add the chicken and brown on each side. Add the chicken stock and simmer on low for 60-90 minutes - or cook all day in a slow cooker on low heat. Remove the chicken and onions and set aside. Pour the remaining broth into a separate bowl.

Whisk together the warm water and flour. Pour into the pan, turn the heat on low, then add the sour cream to the flour mixture and fold it in; keeping it warm but not simmering.

Use a large soup ladle to add the hot pan juice to the sour cream mixture, one ladle at a time, whisking it to prevent it from curdling (this is much easier with 2 people, one ladling and one whisking). Once all of the mixture is incorporated, return it to the pan and add the chicken and onions back in. Heat for about 30 minutes more to temperature but don’t boil.

Serves 6-8.

Romanian Chicken Paprikash

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Healthy Chili's Southwestern Egg Rolls

>> Friday, May 20, 2016


Healthy Chili's Southwestern Egg Rolls

I tasted these rolls stuffed with chicken, cheese, corn, black beans, and other kinds of goodness last week at Chili's restaurant. The sauce itself I could have sipped with a straw, but since I was in polite company, I just casually wiped a bit of the last egg roll around and around the little dish. I think I drooled a little, too.

I was on a double mother/daughter date with Jessie, her boyfriend's mother Kim and his sister Kelly. We wandered around the mall, a place I haven't visited since my girls were teens. Kim wanted to get her ears pierced at Claire's Boutique. Did you know Claire's still exists? Actually, it's hard to imagine a mall without that teenybopper place. It hasn't changed - lots of glitter, BFF necklaces, and boy band posters. And of course, that piercing booth in the front window. I really, really wanted these avocado earrings.



After Kim got pierced, she treated us to appetizers at Chili's - another place I haven't visited in forever. It was nice to spend an afternoon doing nothing in particular except talking and hanging out. My life is clearly too busy, because I actually felt guilty for not doing something productive or goal-oriented with my time!

Anyway, these little Tex-Mex style egg rolls were a hit with everybody, and I definitely wanted to make them again. I looked for a recipe online when I got home. On some recipe copy-cat sites (Top Secret Recipes is pretty helpful) I found a recipe that weighs in at 870 calories. Eek! I decided to experiment with a lighter version of the recipe. I don't know exactly how many calories there are in my version, but they're not fried and they use low-fat ingredients. They taste just about the same, too.

Corn, bean, cheese and chicken wraps


By the way, the recipe calls for the vegetables to be finely chopped; I suggest putting them into the blender or food processor, if you have one, and let it do the work.

Ingredients


3 oz chicken breast
1 tsp chili powder
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 cup red bell pepper, finely chopped
1/4 cup white onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp jalapeno, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 plum tomato, finely chopped
2/3 cup frozen corn
1/2 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup fresh spinach, finely chopped
2 tbsp cilantro
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
1/3 cup egg white
3/4 cup shredded low fat sharp cheddar cheese
8-10 seven inch flour tortillas

For the Avocado Ranch Sauce

1 ripe avocado
1/2 cup fat-free sour cream
1/2 cup low fat mayonnaise
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp ground pepper

Directions

Whisk together the oil and chili powder. Cut the chicken breast into fine pieces and allow to marinate in the oil mixture for 15 minutes. In a large skillet, cook the chicken pieces until browned on all sides. Set aside. 

Add a little more oil and saute the rest of the vegetables for 5 minutes. Stir in the egg, cheese and chicken and remove from heat. 

Oil a cookie sheet with spray oil. Wrap the tortillas in a damp towel and heat in the microwave for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, until they are soft and flexible. Lay them one at a time on a cutting board and place about 2/3 cup of the filling down the middle of the tortilla. Fold over the end, then roll up the tortilla and place it, seam side down, on the cookie sheet. Repeat with the remaining tortillas and corn/bean mixture.

Place the freezer for 15 minutes to solidify the filling. While the rolls are chilling, heat the oven to 400 degrees. Blend together all the sauce ingredients until very smooth, and let it chill until you're ready to serve it.

Spray the tops of the rolls with oil. Place the sheet on the center rack and cook for about 20 minutes, turning once, until the rolls are nicely browned and the filling is cooked through. Slice the rolls halfway through on a diagonal, and serve with the avocado sauce.

Serves 6-8.

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Orange-Jicama Salad

>> Sunday, May 1, 2016


Orange-Jicama Salad


I was middle-aged before I ever tasted a jicama, a Mexican vegetable that looks like a giant beige turnip and tastes like...crunch. Maybe starchy and crunchy like a water chestnut. That's why it is so versatile; it takes on the flavors of everything around it. The chameleon of vegetables. Jicama in this salad adds crispness to the delicate combination of tangy orange slices and creamy avocado, all in a lime-pepper dressing.

Ingredients

4 cups chopped romaine lettuce
1 orange, peeled and thinly sliced
1 avocado, peeled and chopped
1 cup jicama, peeled and julienned
1/2 small white onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup lime juice (juice of 3-4 whole limes)
3 tsp honey
1 small jalapeno chile, sliced paper-thin (optional)
Dash salt and pepper
1/2 cup olive or canola oil

Directions

Toss together the lettuce, onion, and jicama. Sprinkle the avocado with a bit of lime juice to prevent it from turning a dark gross color. Whisk together the lime juice, salt and pepper, and oil. Stir in the chile slices. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

To serve, place lettuce mixture in salad bowls, and allow each person top with orange, avocado, and the salad dressing. If there are any leftovers, store the lettuce mixture separately from the avocado and oranges, because if you mix it all together, these will make the salad gooey and runny.

 


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Beef and Asparagus in Black Bean Sauce

>> Friday, April 29, 2016



Beef and Asparagus in Black Bean Sauce


Ahh, this is tasty Chinese take out food that you can make at home faster than the delivery guy can send it. I have to admit, I didn't know what exactly made up "black bean sauce"; I was in the grocery store one day and thought, I have a couple cans of black beans at home, and I bet I could make this sauce pretty easily.

Nope. Black bean sauce is made from fermented soybeans, and I could probably learn how to ferment those beans into that thick and umami-rich sauce, but a jar of black bean sauce is about 3 bucks and I'm working on a fast and easy dinner here.

So whip this up in 20 minutes next time you're craving Chinese, and relax with a full, satisfied belly.

Beef and Asparagus in Black Bean Sauce

Ingredients

3 cups water
1 1/2 cups white rice
2 tsp oil
1 pound beef stew meat
1 pound fresh asparagus (or frozen bits if asparagus is out of season)
2/3 cup yellow onion, sliced
6 oz. sliced water chestnuts, drained
1/2 cup black bean sauce
2 tbsp cornstarch stirred into 1/2 cup cold water

Instructions

Rinse the rice until the water runs clear. Place the 3 cups water and rice into a pot, bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 20 minutes.

Cut the asparagus into 2-inch segments and steam for 5 minutes in the microwave. While it is steaming, heat the oil in a wok or high-sided frying pan, and saute the beef until browned. Add the asparagus, onion, and water chestnuts, and cook for 5 minutes. 

Whisk together the black bean sauce and cornstarch mixture, and pour over the beef mixture. Cook and stir until the sauce is thickened, 5-8 minutes. Serve over the rice.

Serves 4-6.

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Rosemary and Olive Braised Pork Ribs

>> Wednesday, April 13, 2016



Rosemary and Olive Braised Pork Ribs with Polenta


Country-style ribs are one of Joe's favorite foods. His version of braised ribs is to cook them slow and low in the oven with tomatoes, white wine, kalamata olives, and plenty of herbs. They're done when they fall off the bone with tenderness.

You can serve these with any side dishes you like, but on top of a pool of creamy polenta, it's blissfully satisfying cool-weather food.

3 pounds thick country-style pork ribs
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 can (1 W500 g) plum (Roma) tomatoes, crushed, with juice
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 fresh rosemary sprig or 2 tsp dry rosemary
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat the oil in a dutch oven. Add the ribs and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Brown the ribs on all sides. Drain off the fat.

Add the rest of the ingredients, and half the olives. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cover the pan. Place in the oven and braise for 1 hour, or until the meat is tender and flaky. Stir occasionally and add a little water if the sauce becomes too dry. Sprinkle with the remaining olives before serving.

Serves 4.

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Vietnamese Grilled Steak Salad with Cabbage and Peanuts

>> Sunday, April 3, 2016


Vietnamese Grilled Steak Salad with Cabbage and Peanuts


After St. Patrick's Day, we had half a cabbage and absolutely no desire to eat any sort of cabbage dish that reminded us of winter. We were looking for something fresh and bright and not from this climate. This winter has gone on long enough, folks.

Joe dug around in our cookbooks and found this recipe from Melissa Clark's Cook This Now. Seriously, go pick up a flank steak and cook this - now. You'll be happy you did.

Ingredients

For the vinaigrette

2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp oil
1 tsp Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce, such as nam pla or nuoc mam
Juice of 1 lime
1/8 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1 garlic clove, minced

For the salad

2 carrots, peeled and shredded
10 cups shredded napa or regular cabbage (about ½ head)
¼ cup cilantro, chopped
¼ cup soy sauce
Zest and juice of 1 lime
2 tbsp ginger, grated
2 tsp sesame oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/4-pound flank steak, rinsed and patted dry
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped peanuts (note: if someone at home has a peanut allergy, try toasted slivered almonds or toasted sesame seeds instead)

Instructions

In a screwtop jar, shake the vinaigrette ingredients until well mixed. Keep at room temperature until ready to serve. Toss together the carrots, cabbage, and cilantro; refrigerate until ready to serve.

Whisk together the soy sauce, lime juice, zest, ginger, garlic, and sesame oil.  Place the steak in a dish or pan and coat with this marinade, being sure to cover both sides. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 12. Remove the meat 30 minutes before grilling.

Sprinkle the meat with salt and pepper, and grill or broil over medium high heat about 3 minutes per side (for medium rare) or up to 5 minutes (for well done). Toss the cabbage mixture with half the vinaigrette, then arrange on a platter. Slice the meat thinly across the grain into strips and arrange them on top of the cabbage. Drizzle with the rest of the vinaigrette and sprinkle with the peanuts.

Serves 4-6.

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Italian Sunday Gravy

>> Saturday, March 26, 2016


Italian Sunday Gravy


If you've spent any time around big Italian-American families, you've probably had the pleasure of tasting a thick, meaty Sunday gravy - the end-of-the-week belly-busting dinner that fortifies family and friends for the week ahead. Joe was blessed to know a wonderful cook, Florence, who was Danish but married into an Italian family. From her he learned to make the best Sunday gravy we've ever tasted.

This tomato and meat sauce takes a while to make, but it also makes enough to feed all of the Jersey Shore, or enough extra to freeze for quick weekday meals. Once I start smelling the opera of aromas while it's cooking, I'm nipping off to the kitchen to snatch a little shred of pork here and there when Joe's not looking - it's that tempting.

Next time we make this, you're ALL invited over to dinner. We love nothing better than a crowd around our dinner table.

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste - Joe likes more)
2 cups onion, chopped
1 cup carrots, peeled and chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
2 cups sliced mushrooms
8 cloves of garlic, minced fine or pressed
2 lb pork neck bones
1 lb Italian sausage (or turkey Italian sausage) in casing
2 64 oz cans of diced roma tomatoes
1 6 oz can of Italian tomato paste
4 cups homemade stock - beef, chicken, or vegetable
2 tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
2 tsp crushed dried sage leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup good dry red wine (more if sauce is too thick)

1 16 oz box of pasta, such as rotini or farfalle (spaghetti is fine also)
1/4 cup fresh grated Pecorino Romano cheese or good Parmesan

Directions

Heat a large Dutch oven or heavy stock pot over medium low heat. Add the olive oil and heat until shimmering, about 1 minute. Stir in the crushed red pepper flakes and heat in olive oil for about 1 minute to release the flavor and aroma. (Hot pepper oil can be used instead if it is made ahead.) Toss in onions, carrots, mushrooms and celery; saute until tender. Mix in the minced/pressed garlic cloves and saute for another 2 minutes.

Increase the heat to medium high, and add the pork neck bones, stirring occasionally. Cook evenly for about 8 to 10 minutes until just beginning to brown and cooked through. Pour in the chopped tomatoes with juice, and the stock. Stir in the tomato paste. Add the herbs, salt, pepper, and sugar. Stir in the dry red wine. Bring to a very low boil and reduce heat to low, simmering for 1 hour. Stir occasionally.

Italian Sunday Gravy


After 1 hour add the Italian sausage in casings. Stir and simmer for another 1 to 1 1/2 hours (or longer if you like - Joe has cooked this all day sometimes) checking for thickness as it simmers. If the sauce is too thin add more tomato paste, if it is too thick add some more red wine or stock.

Remove the pork neck bones and Italian sausage links onto separate warm platters. Serve the Italian Sunday Gravy over pasta and the Italian sausage links on the side. Sprinkle with fresh grated Pecorino Romano cheese. Joe likes the neck bones for the tender meat that is on the bones. That is his meat course with a plate of pasta with the gravy.

Serves 8.

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