A new look at cooking and home decorating...with an attempt to add more greens to the plate, more vegetarian options & hopefully lots of new ideas to explore

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Chicken Francaise

2 pounds boneless, skinless thin cut chicken cutlets
Kosher salt and pepper to season the meat
3 eggs scrambled and placed in a shallow dish
¾ cup flour (if you like you may also season the flour with a pinch of salt and pepper) place flour in a shallow bowl or breading dish
1 stick of butter
2-3 tablespoons oil
1 large shallot peeled and minced, (about 4 tablespoon of shallot, you may substitute onion if you don’t have shallot)
Chicken stock
1 cup white wine
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons caper berries

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Dip the chicken in the egg then into the flower to coat. Repeat with all of the cutlets. Set aside on a plate.

Heat 4 tablespoons of butter and 1 tablespoon of oil in a large sauté pan. Heat to medium high. (Alternately you may use clarified butter as I often do). Fry the cutlets for about 2 minutes per side or until golden and cooked through. Fry in batches adding another extra tablespoon or so of oil as necessary.

Once all of the cutlets have been cooked clean out the sauté pan. Place the clean pan back on the heat . Add in a dash of oil, just enough to coat the shallots. Add in the shallots and cook on low heat for about 2-3 minutes. Add in chicken stock (1 cup) and white wine. Reduce over high heat for about 5 minutes.

While the stock is reducing combine remaining 4 tablespoons butter plus 4 tablespoons flour. Mush this together with your fingers to form a paste.

Once the stock has cooked 5 minutes add in the butter and flour paste to thicken the sauce. Whisk to combine. Add in the heavy cream and caper berries. If sauce is too thick for you, add in additional ½ cup or so of chicken stock to thin the sauce. Serve over the chicken cutlets.


I’ve just finished my shopping. I always feel a bit sad after I’m done. There is always so much to choose from at this time of the year. My refrigerator now looks like the produce section. Every time I open it a bottle of ketchup falls out because there is no room for it to fit inside. I throw it back in and close the door quickly, knowing full well that there will be another ketchup victim later. It tends to land on your bare feet when it falls from the fridge.

Tomorrow is Saturday night dinner. Often this is a dinner, which is a bit more fancy than the usual weeknight meals. It may mean a special trip to the butcher or fishmonger. This week that dinner is Nicoise salad. I plan to use fresh grilled tuna rather than canned, as is typical in France. Often this classic salad includes radish, leafy greens, olives, and French green beans.

For the week I plan to post a chicken dish.

I found an old copy of Julia Child, The French Chef Cookbook. That has become my reading for the week. I want, at some point, to tackle Bouillabaisse. The first time I had fish stew was in Italy; actually they call it Zuppa di Pesce, similar in nature but served with pasta. It was one of the best things I ever ate. Back in the states I tried to find recipes to duplicate the dish. Apparently, Bouillabaisse can only be made in the Mediterranean because of the type of fish found there. Often, here it is called Mediterranean fish stew to avoid getting caught in a heated discussion of what makes up a proper bouillabaisse.
Whatever you call it its delicious; I’ll let you know how it goes.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Boston Baked Beans

You might think, “baked beans, what’s the big deal?” but have you ever made Baked Beans them from scratch? The aromas fill the house all day while they simmer away. Totally easy – throw everything in the pot and let them cook themselves. All the ingredients straight from the regular grocery store!

1 pound navy beans, soaked overnight
1 Red onion, diced
12 oz salt pork, tough outer rind removed and discarded- cut remaining pork into lardons (thin strips) or dice
8 oz ham steak, outer casing removed and diced into bite size pieces
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons Molasses
½ cup ketchup
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon dry ground mustard (found in grocery stores with the spices)

Drain the beans of the soaking liquid. Place the beans in a slow cooker/crock pot. Cover the beans with fresh water (about 1 quart or enough to cover the beans by an inch or so). Place all of the remaining ingredients in the pot and stir to combine. Turn the heat to high and let beans cook for about 5 hours. Turn the beans to low and cook for another hour or more if you like. Serve with hot dogs.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Hungry Hill cooking

I posted the cake, look this week for the baked beans...

Hungry Hill

We were sitting around chatting about summer reading and a remark was made. It went something like “In order to write a memoir you must be from an alcoholic family or poor, if you had a normal upbringing forget it”. Well, I just finished reading Hungry Hill by Carole O’Malley Gaunt, and she was both.

I spent my share of time on Hungry Hill. My mom’s family was from the Irish section of Springfield, Mass. as well. In fact, I recognized the picture of Carol on the front cover of the book because she was a bride’s maid in my moms wedding and I have seen her picture in wedding photos around the house.

Carols story is a page-turner. When Carol is thirteen years of age her mom dies of cancer and Carol is left will all of the responsibility of raising her brothers. Her dad, grief struck, turns to alcohol.

Hungry Hill is an entirely different memory for me. I spent my days there as a young child while my mom worked. My Grandparents took wonderful care of me. Though my grandparents were far from rich, my grandma made wonderful meals for me. She loved Julia Child. My Grandfather hand a very small but beautiful garden in the yard from which he would always cut fresh flowers for the kitchen table. There were concord grapes growing on a trellis and the smell was delicious when they ripened. Saturdays were always baking days and the tins were filled with oatmeal cookies and banana and Irish soda breads.

As I mentioned my grandparents weren’t wealthy, so may parents were always shocked when they would pick me up at the end of the day and hear that my Grandma had fed me lamb chops for lunch. Everyone should be so lucky.

One thing served both in Carol’s family and in my moms, was baked beans. This was a traditional Saturday night dinner served with hot dogs. My mom suggested it was light work for the cook to prepare, allowing extra energy to be saved for the traditional Sunday roast dinner the following day. If you have a sweet tooth then a slice Mrs. Metzger style chocolate cake will complete the meal.

Chocolate frosting

1 ½ cups butter (3 sticks)
6 oz chocolate melted (I am using dark)
1 ¼ cups corn syrup
1 ¾ cups heavy cream
1 ½ cups confectioner’s sugar
½ teaspoon espresso powder
1 Tablespoon Grand Marnier
1 cup Dutch process cocoa

Place the butter and chocolate in a microwave proof bowl. Heat in microwave for 3-4 minutes on medium power. Stir to combine then place in stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment.

In a saucepan in medium high heat combine corn syrup, cream, sugar, espresso powder grand Marnier, and cocoa. Whisk for 2 minutes on med high heat to combine. Pour into stand mixer.

Blend the ingredients on high speed for about three minutes, (fitted with whisk attachment) to combine. Allow mixture to cool for an hour – it should come to room temperature. Place the mixture in the refrigerator for a few hours until it thickens enough to spread on cake. Will make enough for a double layer cake.

Chocolate cake for a double layer cake

Butter and flour for pans
3 cups flour
1 ¾ cups sugar
1 cup Dutch process cocoa
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
¾ cup sour cream
1 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons hot water
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Frosting of your choice

Preheat oven to 350

Butter and flour 2- 9” round cake pans – use parchment paper on the bottom of the cake pan if you feel more comfortable just make sure to butter and flour it also…

Sift together all of the dry ingredients.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, add the cream, canola oil, water, eggs, and vanilla. On low speed slowly add in the dry ingredients. Mix until all ingredients are combined. Divide between 2 cake pans and bake for 30-35 minutes. Ice with your favorite frosting.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Italian Mac n Cheese

1-Pound pasta cooked according to box instructions (I am using ziti and cook 8-10 minutes)
2 tablespoons butter
4-5 tablespoons olive oil
3 medium cloves garlic peeled and minced
1 piece of ham steak, casing removed and diced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Pinch of fresh pepper
1 ¼ cups grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup Italian breadcrumbs
½ cup heavy cream
1-8 oz container for fresh mozzarella balls – the tiny ones, but NOT marinated, sometimes called bocconcini, I have found then in regular grocery stores under many different names – look in both the fresh mozzarella section as well as in the area with the prepackaged cheeses. If you cant find them use 1”chunks of fresh mozzarella instead

¼ cup extra breadcrumbs
Extra olive oil

About 2 minutes before the pasta is done cooking start to cook the rest of the ingredients. Place a large Dutch oven or stockpot on medium heat. Add the butter and the olive oil. Once the butter has melted add the garlic and ham, cook for 1 minute. Do not let the garlic brown. Add salt, pepper and cooked pasta. Stir in the Parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs, heavy cream and mozzarella balls. Butter a baking dish about 9x13” and add pasta to the baking dish top with extra breadcrumbs and olive oil. Serve as is or refrigerate until you are ready to serve. Preheat oven to 350 and cook, covered with foil, for about 30 minutes or until warmed through.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

A Lazy Week

This was a lazy week for me. I haven’t been feeling well, something like a summer flu. My parents did brighten my weekend though. Saturday we all had lunch together. Mom and dad brought over fresh native corn plucked from the fields in Massachusetts. Corn much sweeter than anything from a grocery store. We wait all year for this native corn to appear at the local farm stands. Dad and I shucked it and then it was boiled in a big pot of water and served with butter and salt. Simple fare. With it we had BLTs with arrugula, fresh tomatoes and a huge bowlful of watermelon.

Along with the gift of corn was a book. I have spent much of my weekend reading it. It is a memoir about the Irish neighborhood in which my mom grew up. I hope that next week my cooking is inspired by it. For this week though, I am working on a few dishes. Italian mac and cheese is the one I hope to post first. I am aiming for a simple make ahead dish that everyone will enjoy. Mild enough to feed to children sophisticated enough to have with a glass of wine.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Italian Sausage simmered with Cannellini Beans

2 tablespoons Olive oil
1 Red onion, large dice
1 sprig rosemary
3 cloves garlic minced
1 pound sweet Italian sausage
1 pound hot Italian sausage
2, 1 pound 3 oz (19 oz cans), drained Cannellini beans
1 ½ cups white wine
1 Teaspoon Kosher salt or sea salt
Fresh pepper

Preheat oven to 400

Place olive oil in a Dutch oven. Turn heat to medium then add in the onions. Cook onions for about 10 minutes until tender.

With a fork poke holes all over the sausages so the flavor of the sausage will simmer in with the beans. Set aside.

After ten minutes add into the Dutch oven the rosemary and garlic. Cook 1 more minute. Add in the beans and the sausage, layering or stirring to combine. Pour in the wine, and sprinkle the salt and pepper over the top.

Place in the oven for 1 hour.

Once cook you may eat as is or thicken the mixture by adding ½ cup parmesan and ½ cup store-bought breadcrumbs to the top then run under the broiler to cook for a minute or so. Drizzle the top with extra virgin olive oil then serve.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

A Kitchen Gift

My aunt arrived at my doorstep yesterday with a big basket of strawberries. Sadly, it is July 7th and the last week of strawberry picking in New England. Over the past few weeks’ entire families join together and get down on hands and knees to pick berries. The berry fields are hot but the prices are cheap. Perhaps you are wondering as I often have, what is done with all the berries. It remains a mystery to me.

My Aunt went berry picking at least three times this week. Armed with a big floppy hat and layers of suntan lotion, it relaxes her. You might be thinking she makes wonderful things with the berries. Jam. Tarts. Salads. No. It is her preference to give the bags full of berries away as gifts, leaving the final destination up to the recipient. Such a thoughtful gift it makes, I have made a fruit crisp this morning with my batch. Well, what is left of my batch.

The berries are luscious, plucked straight from the warm earth. They are really nothing like store-bought berries neither in taste nor in texture. The skin is much softer and the flavor so sweet it is like eating pure sugar. Even thoughs who think they don’t like berries will find them irresistible, served simply with freshly whipped cream.

Out with strawberries in with peaches. Perhaps we are not yet in the height of peach season though I look forward to their arrival. Part of the beauty of growing up in an agricultural area is that every season to this day remains marked by celebration. We look forward to the annual peach festival later in the month.

This is going to be a week of a heat wave, or so they think. There are Italian sausages in my kitchen ready to be cooked. I plan to braise them with rosemary, rich olive oil, and white beans. I made Italian Tuscan bread early in the week and now have the flavors of the region on my mind. If the dish turns out well I plan to share it. Both inexpensive, and uncomplicated, it would make for a wonderful family dinner.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

A celebration of hope

The phone rang yesterday. For a week or so I had been mulling over in my mind, ideas for a July 4th dessert. It’s the time of the year when one really isn’t tin the mood for a heavy cream cheese laden kind of thing. Nor, was I about to suggest a trifle. Trifles, though often light and airy, are for the most part, associated with English cuisine. Perhaps not the best choice for celebrating July 4th.

The phone call was from my parents. They had wonderful news; it appears as though my mom’s chemo treatments might be working. I truly felt like celebrating this weekend. The goal for dessert became a sort of celebration cake.

I woke this morning with one thing in mind. The desert would be called hope cake. I wanted to use something pink because that has become the color symbol for Breast cancer awareness. I also wanted a basic foundation for the cake. Something simple and light. Decisions were make and the base of the cake became one of the most famous of American cakes known as a 1,2,3,4 Cake. The pink reddish color would come from strawberry jam because I prefer a natural color rather than tinting the frosting with food coloring. The light as air “frosting” would be a simple sweetened whipped cream.

As I made the cake my thoughts were on how far things have come. Many doctors and nurses work so hard ever year to help those with cancer. Every year thousands of people donate time and money to raise awareness of and fight against breast cancer. Medicines are available to my mom, medicines that years ago didn’t exist. When I think of the millions of American who have come together to fight this disease I am hopeful. Please make a hope cake and celebrate with me.

Cream Frosting

This is simple frosting that will frost the tops only (not the sides) of two 9” cakes. So simple it is, that a recipe is hardly needed but only to serve as a reminder to the cook of how good simplicity can be.

2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
small pinch of salt
1/3 cup sugar

Place all of the above in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whip on high speed until stiff peeks form.

Hope Cake

1 ½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup milk
plus extra butter and flour for the cake pans

2/3 cup strawberry jam

1 recipe for cream frosting

Please note- I am using old fashioned cake pans that have a built in metal piece which runs along the bottom of the cooked cake to ease the cake out once it is cooked. If you are worried about getting your cake out, you might line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper or use a springform pan instead.

Preheat oven to 350

First butter then flour two 9” cake pans and set aside. Into a large mixing bowl sift flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Into a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment add butter. Beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Add in the sugar then beat on Medium speed for 1 more minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Add in the eggs and vanilla extract. Place on high speed for 1 minute and scrape down the bowl as needed. Alternately add scoops of flour mixture then of milk until all is combined. Divide batter between the two pans. Bake on middle rack of oven for 30 minutes. Allow to cool completely before removing from pan.

Place 1st cake on a plate then smooth 1/3 cup of jam over the top of the cake. Add ½ of the whipped cream frosting and with the back of a spoon gently spread the frosting out over most of the jam. Add the second piece of cake on then repeat with the jam the rest of the frosting.

Sunday, July 1, 2007


3 large ripe tomatoes, core removed and cut in half (about 2 ½ -3pds of tomatoes)
1 red onion, peeled and cut in half
1 Tablespoon of olive oil
1 cucumber peeled and diced (remove seeds with a spoon before chopping)
1 large clove of garlic minced
8 fresh basil leaves julienne
½ teaspoon of kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons balsamic, or sherry vinegar
Extra olive oil
Croutons for garnish

Preheat oven to 400

Place tomatoes and onion on baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil- Roast in oven until tomatoes skins start to brown a little about 10-15 minutes.

Once the tomatoes are cooled add them to a food processor with cucumber and garlic. Process until almost smooth (or chunkier if you like) Season with salt and pepper. Swirl in olive oil and balsamic vinegar once the soup is ladled into bowls. Garnish with fresh basil and croutons.