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

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Christmas 2008


These days before Christmas are crazy. With gifts to buy and wrap, a menu to plan, who needs a little help know and then? – I know I do. That why, I was so pleased when I found this box as well as a box of sugar cookie dough and cupcake mix in whole foods. The both the dough and cupcake batter are organic and very easy to use. I thought these mixes might help you out a little around the holiday.

I have been busy trying to prepare for Christmas and have found that it is a huge help to get things done ahead of time. Make to do lists, which include checking place setting, cleaning glassware, and setting a menu. All of this will help you to sleep better at night.

My menu for Christmas day is as follows

Antipasti
Chestnut soup
Arrugula salad with Prosuttio
Popovers
Baked pasta served in individual gratin dishes
Roast prime rib of beef
Onions in balsamic syrup
Stuffed tomatoes (Julia child style)
Sautee of mixed mushrooms

For dessert
Italian Trifle
Cookies
Sorbet
And perhaps a Yule log if I ever get around to it

I don’t know if it will help you at all to know my menu, but I find that a simple reminder to write thing out ahead is always helpful.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Lori’s Lasagna


My friend Lori made a version of this dish as part of an Italian wine tasting dinner, which I organized. This is a great make ahead dish. Lori uses low fat or skim versions of cheese, I went for the full fat flavor. Also, Lori omits the egg in the ricotta mixture, I left it in.

Meat Sauce:
1 pound ground beef, broken up in chunks then browned in a skillet, set aside
1 tablespoon oil
2 yellow onions, peeled and finely diced
2 medium cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
2 cans, 28 oz each, crushed tomatoes
Pinch of sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon fresh pepper
½ teaspoon marjoram

In a medium Dutch oven, add the oil, and over medium to medium low heat, sweat the onions for about 7 minutes. Add in the garlic and cook 1 more minute. Add in the tomatoes, sugar, salt, pepper, and marjoram. Add the cooked meat and simmer, semi covered, for about 30 minutes. May be made ahead.

For the Lasagna-
1 recipe for the meat sauce
16 oz of grated mozzarella
1 8 oz box of no boil lasagna sheets
1 ½ cups ricotta cheese
1 egg, beaten
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon marjoram
¼ cup Parmesan cheese, grated

In a small bowl combine the ricotta, egg, salt, marjoram and Parmesan.

In a 9x 13” pan spread ¾ cup meat sauce over bottom of pan. Then, 3 sheet of pasta (no boil sheets should not overlap because they expand as they cook) on top of which will be-

2/3 cup of ricotta mixture spread over sheets, then 1 cup meat sauce spread on top, then 1 cup mozzarella cheese. Repeat again, lasagna, then meat sauce, and mozzarella until you run out of ricotta.

Your final layer will be 2-3 sheet of lasagna, then as much of the remaining meat sauce as you can fit, then the remaining mozzarella (about 1 cup) cover with aluminum foil. You can assemble this ahead, and when ready, bake in a 375 degree oven for 50-60 minutes. Let it rest 10-15 minutes before cutting.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Cookbooks as gifts



Thanksgiving is now over, and it is time to start thinking of Christmas gifts. I though it might be fun to give you a few suggestions.

Back to Basics - by Ina Garten
Ina always provides recipes for great home-style meals that are simple to make. There looks to be about 80 recipes in total, which is fairly common in her books. A beautiful photograph accompanies almost all of the recipes. The photos are quite helpful for those who don’t cook often. Honestly, I just love looking through her books because they make you feel as if you are at a party with her in the Hamptons. For those who have her cookbooks already, many of the recipes may seem “familiar”. For those who cook often and want to be challenged by new ingredients you might want to try my next recommendation instead. All in all, I think out of 80 recipes there are about 30 which looked appealing enough to try and don’t seem like repeats from prior books. The cookbook is on sale on line for about $18-21 and for that price I would say it is worth a try.

Chanterelle- by David Waltuck
This is a great book for the more experienced cook on your Christmas list. This is for the “I like to make my own duck stock” crowd. It is a beautiful cookbook, reminiscent of French Laundry in style. I would love to try every one of the recipes (there are about 130or so) if only I had a staff of chefs working for me and an unlimited budget. There are some recipes that I can afford to make, like lentil soup, which was one of the best versions of lentil soup that I have ever had (though beware I think it was actually lentil soup with truffles!) Anyway, you get the point, If you have a wealthy friend, who like to cook, and doesn’t mind hunting around for ingredients, this is really a very lovely cookbook- its about $50 in bookstores.

Urban Italian- Andrew Carmellini
Recommended by the gourmet book club, this is a fun book. It is somewhere in between Back to Basics and Chanterelle in terms of the skill level required of the cook. I love the Chanterelle book, but cannot cook from it everyday. I like Ina Garten if I am in a hurry or just want a recipe to work even if it’s not “flashy”. This is a cookbook by a great chef who is cooking Italian food at home. He takes food like meatballs and turns them into “shrimp Meatballs” Or “Lamb Meat balls Stuffed with Goats cheese” Best of all, I loved all of the stories. It was very enjoyable to read the introduction, how he became a chef, and many of the blurbs above the recipes. If you are into Italian cooking with a fun urban twist this may be the book for you.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe and Sausage


This is a simple but festive looking dish. I like to get a head start by cooking the sausage ahead of time. I actually microwave it for a few minutes (horrors!) until it is partially cooked then, once it is firm enough, I cut it into bite size slices and sear it in the sauté pan. Alternately it can be grilled until cooked through.

1 pound sweet Italian sausage cooked through and sliced into bite size rounds
1 large bunch or broccoli rabe, thick stems removed
1 pound Orecchiette
5 cloves of garlic (medium size) peeled and minced
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1 additional cup for sauce
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Pinch of kosher salt

Place the pasta on to boil; it should take about 12-13 minutes to cook. When the pasta has about 3 minutes or so left to cook, place 3 tablespoons of oil into a large sauté pan, over medium high heat. Add the broccoli rabe and cook it until it wilts, about 2-3 minutes. Add in the 1 cup of olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, and kosher salt stir and cook on medium for 1 minute. Add in the Drained pasta and cooked sausage and toss before serving.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Aebleskiver (Danish round pancakes)


Every cook shop has been selling these ebleskiver pans lately. These pans used to be sold only in Danish or Scandinavian stores. There is a myth that Pancake batter can be used in these pans. Well, you can use pancake batter but it makes for very heavy dough. I prefer this light home made version. Filling can be anything from jam to lemon curd to chocolate chips.

About 2 tablespoons of melted butter to brush the pan with
1 chopstick to turn the pancakes with
4 eggs, separated
¾ cup heavy cream
1 lemon juice and zest
2 ½ Tablespoons sugar
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
1 Teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups flour
Favorite filling such as jam, nutella, lemon curd (about a half of a teaspoon per pancake)


In your stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Set aside.

Into a medium mixing bowl, combine the heavy cream, lemon juice, and zest. Stir to combine. Add in the egg yolks, sugar, salt, vanilla, baking powder, and flour. Stir with a wooden spoon then with a whisk until most of the lumps are gone. Fold in the egg whites.

Place pan on medium high heat. Brush the holes with a light coating of butter. Fill the hole up ½-3/4 of the way with batter. When you start to see the batter bubbling (as with pancakes) you can add about a half of a teaspoon of your favorite filling. Then with your chopstick you will flip the cake over. Finish cooking on second side for a minute or so. You may need to adjust the heat while cooking as needed.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Simple slow cooked Black beans


Here is a very simple method for slow cooking spicy black beans. You can use these beans as part of casserole dishes, as side dishes (I am serving them with Pernil pork) or as the base for a re-fried bean recipe.

2 pounds black beans, rinsed well then, soaked overnight in enough water to cover (You may need to top off the water from time to time
1 quart chicken stock
8 cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1 green pepper, cored and roughly chopped
1 can 7.5 oz Chipotle Chiles in Adobo, you will use the whole can and the sauce- I roughly cut up the chilies with a kitchen scissors

Drain the beans, which have been soaked. Place them in a slow cooker. Add in the chicken stock, garlic, pepper, and can of chilies and the sauce. Cook on high for 4 ½ to 5 hours stirring once during cooking.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Friends

I just read a wonderful comment in the Tuscan Cooking post below. A reader who saw and enjoyed this blog wrote in a wonderful note describing to me how recipes had touched their life. I cannot tell you how happy it makes me to hear people enjoying food and sharing their joy with friends. Thank you all who read this blog, for sharing your thoughts ideas and stories with me.
I hope you like the pumpkin soup recipe below. It was serves as part of a “wine tasting with friends” dinner, which focused on the region of Napa.

Pumpkin Soup from Janet/Alice

Here is a pumpkin Soup dish that a friend made as part of a "Napa wine tasting" nite. I wanted to share it with you since so many Pumpkin soup dishes start with- buy a large pumpkin and roast it... what a mess! This one came from my friend janet via her fried Alice. Enjoy!

6 cups Chicken Broth
2 cups Heavy cream
1 can Pure Pumpkin ( 29 or 30oz can)
6 Table spoons of Dark brown sugar
1 Teaspoon cumin
1 Teaspoon Chili powder
1 Teaspoon ground coriander
1/8 Teaspoon nutmeg

Bring Chicken and cream to a boil.
Wisk in remaining of ingredients in order.
Reduce heat and simmer till it thickens ( about 20 minutes).
Salt and pepper to taste ( I didn't use any).
Cheddar cheese and Cilantro for presentation

Monday, October 20, 2008

Waldorf Salad


This is an updated version of a classic American dish, often served during the holiday season. I love to begin making it during the “Apple Harvest” season. It is the perfect way to use up apples from a trip to the apple orchard. This classic dish can become quite elegant by thinly slicing the apples and stacking them on top of some fresh greens. The dish can become a hearty main course by adding in a cupful or so of freshly roasted chicken.

2 ¼ to 2 ½ cups of apple slices- remove core and slice as thin as possible, about 1/8”
Immediately toss the apples in lemon juice (I used 2 red delish and 1 granny smith the get the amount of apple slices necessary, and I like the combination of tart and sweet. If you are using smaller heirloom apples you may need more than 3 total)

2 tablespoons lemon juice- immediately toss the apples in lemon juice as you are slicing them so they do not turn brown
1 cup toasted walnuts
½ cup dried cranberries
Plus a handful of fresh salad greens to garnish – a mix is fine, arrugula would also be nice

Dressing
2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 Tablespoons Hazelnut oil (or other nut oil)
1/8 Teaspoon Kosher salt
¾ cup Hellmann Mayonnaise
½ Teaspoon Dijon Mustard

Into a medium-mixing bowl place the Apples in lemon juice, walnuts and cranberries (and chicken if using).

In a Small bowl, whisk the dressing ingredients together to just combine. You can hold back a few cranberries or nuts to use as garnish) Pour the dressing over the apple mixture. Toss to combine. Place a bit of salad greens beneath each serving of Waldorf salad. Garnish with extra nuts and Berries.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Prunes soaked in Brandy

If we were cooking in France this would be Prunes soaked in Armagnac. Upon investigation at my local wine shop, I was told that it would be ok to substitute Brandy for Armagnac for the purpose of cooking, since the lower cooking quality Armagnac is not widely found here. Soaking Prunes in Armagnac (or in our case Brandy) is common throughout France form the Loire valley to Gascony. Typically, the prunes are then stuffed into a loin of pork.

11 ounces of whole pitted prunes, cut in half (one small container from whole foods)
1 ½ cups red wine
¾ cup brandy

Place the prunes, wine and Brandy in a small bowl and allow to soak for several hours or overnight.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Oven Roasted Heirloom Tomatoes for Storing


We have all seen recipes for Oven Roasted Cherry Tomatoes. A few cupfuls of cherry or other small tomatoes are thrown onto a baking sheet, drizzled with a little salt and pepper, a bit of fresh thyme, and perhaps a bit of garlic, minced. Bake at 450 for about 10 minutes. Sound familiar? They are great to serve with anything from roast beef to scrambled eggs. What if though, time was running out? What if it was a cool September day and upon looking around your garden, you realized that you would not have fresh tomatoes forever? The lovely golden, orange, green and red beauties that you have grown used to over the summer would not be around all winter? Here is a simple way to elongate their stay on our tables.

2 –2 1/2 cups garden, heirloom tomatoes (about the size of cherry tomatoes)- cut in half
6 sprigs thyme
8 cloves unpeeled garlic
¼ cup olive oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon ground pepper

Preheat oven to 250

Place the tomatoes on a baking sheet, cut side down. Scatter the thyme and garlic around the baking sheet. Mix the olive oil, salt and pepper together then drizzle all over the tomatoes. (You can toss them a bit with your hands to coat all of the tomatoes) Place in oven and cook for about 2-2 ½ hours. To vary the recipes if you have large Brandywine of beefsteak type tomatoes you will just increase the cooking time to 3-4 hours.

Tomatoes dried this way can be stored in the fridge or even frozen.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Aunt Sara’s Chocolate Cookies

I scrambled to write down Aunt Sara’s recipe as it was given to me from Diane, an acquaintance of mine. Diane and I met haphazardly, as she spotted me with my arms full of cookbooks, as they often are. We started chatting away about what she was planning to make for Christmas. Diane was in the middle of planning out a feast of the seven fishes for Christmas Eve. We chatted about all of the Christmas cookies that she bakes, and then Diane confessed that she is actually Jewish! She just loves to cook and bake. I bump into Diane often, and the last time I did she gave me this recipe, saying that her “Aunt Sara would be smiling down form the heavens above if she knew that people were baking her cookies”.

Because I am a bit scatterbrained, I keep forgetting to buy gram crackers in the grocery store, so I have not yet tested the recipe. That having been said- it looks very easy to make and I thought I should pass this along to you before I loose the little slip of paper that it is written on.

2 cups chocolate chips (Diane says its ok to mix and match, white chocolate, dark chocolate, and semi- sweet)
2 cups Gram cracker crumbs
2 cups Sweetened condensed milk

Preheat 350
Butter or spray an 9X13” pan
In a mixing bowl combine the ingredients above into a thick “oatmeal” consistency. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 40 minutes.
(Diane likes to line the pan with easy release foil)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Settling in for winter


With darling children back to school, Halloween costumes ordered, and winter clothing all laundered and ready to wear, I welcome the winter. It is the season of soups and hearty stews.

With autumn in mind, yesterday, I peeled carrots, chopped onions, and minced celery in order to make my first soffritto of the fall. Though soffrittos can vary from country to country, they are usually a mixture of carrot onion and celery. Sometimes in Latin cooking there might be chili minced in as well. In French cooking this cooking base is called a Mirepoix. Yesterday I hand chopped mine because I love the sound and feel of the knife on my heavy wooden cutting board. Often though, you will see soffritto thrown into a food processor. The food processor tends to make the vegetables more watery, but saves vast amounts of time if you are in a hurry.

What was all this work for? - Ragu Bolognese. A specialty from the area of Bologna Italy. The region know as Emilia Romagna is famous for it wonderful Ragus, cheeses, veal dishes, and roasted pears as well as many other specialties. It is a region of Gourmet food items. The milk is what interests me the most. The region has a lot of dairy, so unlike more southern Italian sauces, this sauce is simmered with milk and often has heavy cream added back in at the end, which makes for a “pink” colored sauce. The Ragu is perfect if served with polenta wedges.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Tuscan cooking


I have in my mind, drifted far from where I live. Drifted, to a land with beautiful mustard colored fields beautiful sunny, warm days. A land of fennel, Ragu, and Minestrone. A place where no doorbells or telephones ring with requests, but rather, with invitations. A place where people walk rather than ride around in cars or SUV’s . I am not sure why all of a sudden I am in this place in my mind, except to say that I was reminded by a family member the other day about some of our Northern Italian family roots.

It helps, of course, that I have actual memories of the Northern Italian countryside. I lived in Florence for half a year and traveled a bit around the countryside. I have fond memories of the area as well as a sort of “food memory” – a taste memory, if there is such a thing. All of my memories were recalled vividly this morning as I opened a jar of Porcini. The smell that came forth was heavenly. The earthy smell, hearty and warm.

I took the jar and used its contents to create a lovely Risotto. It was everything a good Risotto should be. Creamy but with no cream added. I plan to serve it later with spicy lobster.

I look forward to the months of fall here in my kitchen. Love, I do, the ways that dishes like pork braised in milk (this is both Italian and French), Ragu Bolognese, and panna cotta seem even more delicious and comforting.

I am torn though, as my heart is also in the French countryside- in the land of prunes steeped in Armagnac and hearty Cassoulet, as well as duck confit. Hmmm, what to make next…..


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Spanish “style” oven baked rice


This rice dish takes its direction from the rice dishes of Spain. It has been Americanized though, in that it uses fresh grilled chorizo sausage as opposed to the traditional dried Spanish kind. This is not proper paella. Not even close. But if you are looking for an easy Spanish rice dish for a party, this is it.

3 Tablespoons olive oil, plus more if needed to coat the rice
1 Medium yellow onion, peeled and minced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 cup Arborio rice
1 pound fresh chorizo sausage, grilled until grill marks appear on the outside (meaning its ok if the sausage is still a bit raw inside) – sliced into ¼” slices
1 roasted red pepper cut into medium dice (from jar OK)
2 ½ cups chicken stock
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
Pinch of ground pepper
1 cup heirloom tomatoes cut into a very rough dice, or sliced

Preheat oven to 375
Into a Dutch oven (5 quart is fine) add the olive oil. Over medium low- medium heat add the onion. Cook for seven minutes. Lower heat if necessary to prevent the onion from taking on too much color. Add in the garlic and stir for 1 minute. If the pan seems dry add another tablespoon of oil. Add in the rice and stir to coat for 1 minute. Add in the sausage and red pepper. Pour in the chicken stock then bring to a boil. Add the Salt and pepper then cover with a lid. Place in the Preheated oven for 25 minutes.

Once the rice has cooked stir and re-season if necessary. Garnish with heirloom tomatoes.

Getting Ready for autumn


Well, today the temperature has dipped a bit and so, it is the perfect day for getting ready for fall. It is the kind of day when I switch out all of the summer bedding, pack up some of the summer clothing and load up on flu medicine and Chap Stick. I have a beautiful new All-clad slow cooker, which is just begging for use.

Around this time every year, I pick a day like today for my annual soup making. Some people use this time of the year for making and storing tomato sauce. Not me. For some reason, the tomato sauce thing has never appealed to me. Perhaps, it is because I prefer to use the San Marzano tomatoes from Italy for sauce rather that fresh tomatoes. Therefore, I make tomato sauce all winter long. Making soup at this time of the year is however, a huge help in the mornings.

Usually I pull out my big red cast iron pot, and make a traditional French pea soup. Once the soup has cooked then cooled I put it into little, single serving size Baggies and store it in my freezer. As need be I can defrost the soup in the mornings and warm it enough to be thrown into a lunch thermos.

After the work of the day a simple supper is in order. I have an easy rice dish, which I would like to share with you, though bear in mind it may be a little too spicy for children.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Grilled Blackened Boneless Rib Eyes

Well, this could not get any easier. If you purchase the best quality steak the result will be a steak as good if not better than anything that you will find in a steakhouse. The grilling method works best due to the smoke. Have some water handy to tame down the fire a bit after the steak is seared.

2 boneless rib eyes, about 1 ¼-1 ½” thick each
6 tablespoons melted butter- clarified butter will work even better
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
And several tablespoons of Chef Paul Prudhommes Blackened Steak Magic- per steak

You will preheat your grill to 450

Steaks must be at room temperature before you begin.

Dip each steak in the melted butter until coated on both sides. Sprinkle the steak with salt, pepper, and Steak Magic on both sides and press the spices gently with your hand. As the spices and the butter become one, the coating will take on a black appearance. Obviously you will season your steak to taste, I have found though that this seasoning is not “hot/spicy” but rather just creates an amazing crust on the steak, so don’t worry about over seasoning.

Place the steaks on the grill for 5 minutes per side. Remove from heat and allow the steaks to rest for several minutes before serving.

Serve with Caesar salad and onion rings.

* Please note, you can make your own blackening seasonings, but honestly I see know reason for this since the Prudhomme’s brand can be found in most grocery stores, if fact we bought ours at a little village market in New England.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Pan-Roasted Maine Jumbo Scallops with Mushrooms and Asparagus Puree


(From French Laundry Cookbook)

This dish from The French Laundry Cookbook was not too difficult to make. The Asparagus are blanched and then Pureed into a sauce. The mushrooms are simmered in stock then sautéed with thyme and garlic, and butter. And the scallops are seared in a pan before serving. If you have the cookbook you will note that I did not follow the recipe exactly since I used chanterelle mushrooms. Also, I substituted heirloom tomatoes from my garden as garnish. This dish was fairly easy to make thanks to the great directions in the cookbook, and if you have any interest in cooking from The French Laundry Cookbook this may be the recipe to start off with.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Gnocchi Gratin


1 pd. 4 oz of Potato Gnocchi- homemade or store bough and cooked in boiling salted water until the Gnocchi float- remove and drain the water
2 Tablespoons butter cut into small pieces
1/3 cup grated Gruyere cheese
1/3 cup Grated Parmesan
½ cup breadcrumbs
1/3 cup warm heavy cream

Into a Gratin dish (the wider the better so all of the Gnocchi can get a little crust) place the cooked Gnocchi. Scatter the butter pieces on top then add the cream. Sprinkle on the cheese and breadcrumbs and run under a broiler until the top is golden- about 2 “from the broiler.

Note- the breadcrumbs can brown quickly so watch carefully. Also, children do not seem to like the smell of melted Gruyere as it can be pungent-for them I use only Parm. Cheese.

The Gift of Food

About a week or so ago I received a gift. It wasn’t the kind of gift that one can put a price tag on, but rather, the kind that one cherishes for its symbolism. To many people it might look like a bunch of old papers. Each day I have been sifting through a good size stack of recipes that my mom had collected over her lifetime. The beauty of this kind thing is in the memories that it conjures up.

Some recipes were given to her from friends, teachers, and relatives. I found a yellow folded up paper of my mom’s original meatball recipe, which had been a gift from my grandmother. My grandmother had received it from her mother in law, who had emigrated from Naples Italy.

Other recipes were cut out from local papers and places like Yankee Magazine. These too are special recipes in that they are often accompanied by a story. I found clippings of Christmas cookie recipes, chocolate truffles, and a very yellow tiny piece of paper with a marinara sauce recipe on it.
Ultimately, I have here a bag of American recipes. Some, of Italian origin, some French and, well, some from everywhere- and I cant wait to share them with you.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Lamb or Chicken Tagine


The word Tagine is used for both the style of Moroccan cooking as well as the vessel that the food was cooked in. A Tagine looks like a large round oven safe “platter” covered by a tall “top”. My first experience eating this style of food was in Paris. Unlike traditional French food, which is small in portion, a Tagine is a hearty warm and filling meal. As starving student we could not wait to head over to the left bank of Paris and eat these “stews”. My guess is that in France the Tagine is vestige of the time when the French colonized Morocco, but I am no historian.

So you are wondering, do I need a proper Tagine vessel to cook this dish? No. I have an Emile Henry one and almost never use it to cook in. It will make for a very pretty serving piece though. All clad also makes one. I use my slow cooker if I want to smell the stew simmering away all morning or switch to a Dutch oven (7 quart) and reduce cooking time to about 2-3 hours. Bring to a boil then keep the stew on you stove over a low simmer.

2 ½ pounds of Lamb for stew, I use shoulder meat
(If you want to feed more people you can add chicken parts as well- might I suggest dark meat)
5 large white onions, peeled and cut into a medium dice
2 heads of garlic, peeled and slightly crushed
2 cups chicken stock
5 oz of pitted green olives
2 lemons preserved/confit- use the outer rind not the pulp and cut into a small dice
2 Tablespoons Harissa

Place all of the ingredients into a slow cooker and simmer on high for 6-8 hours. Serve over couscous (1box prepared as per instructions on box)

Variations-
Add 1-2 tablespoons ginger, 3 tablespoons cilantro, 1 teaspoon saffron threads,
1 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon turmeric for a version with more spice

Also, 1 bulb sliced sautéed fennel, 1 sautéed eggplant cut into a medium dice and or
1 roasted red pepper can be added for more vegetables


Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Spinach Twins


Recently, I became rather interested in re-creating a particular recipe. I had seen it first on a DVD of The French Chef with Julia Child. The episode started in the kitchen with Julia. Julia demonstrated the Turnover dough then, the shot switched to France where Simaca filled the dough with spinach ham and mushrooms. The Turnover was then baked in the oven.

I thought perhaps this would be a great dish to bring to a wine tasting being held by a friend. I set out to find the recipe and it was not in any of my Julia Child cookbooks. Distressed, I went to the local Library to see if I had missed a Julia cookbook in my collection. It turned out that I had. I was missing what some say is one of her best books called From Julia Child’s Kitchen. The section called Pastry turnovers and covered tarts contained just what I was looking for.

Once home, I started on the sauce called Sauce Soubise au Gruyere. Things went rather well and I felt quite confident.

I then drained and cooked the chopped spinach. Sautéed the mushrooms and the ham and set it all aside.

Rolling out the pastry dough was easy enough since I had chosen to use puff pastry rather than the dough suggested in the book. Assembly was my next step.
The puff pastry was then filled with layers of filling and decorative touches were added to my creation. Then it dawned on me. I had rolled out the dough a bit larger that Julia instructed and the Turnover would just barely fit into my oven. Plus, since I was bringing it to someone else’s house it would be best if freshly baked- in my friend’s oven! I cleared out the top of my refrigerator then baked the turnover at my friend’s house the following day. I cannot wait to re- create my own version of the turnover on a smaller scale. Who else but Julia could inspire all of this work.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

White wine poached pears


Poached pears are easy to make, and they can be made a day or so ahead and left in the refrigerator until you are ready to use them. Layer them with puff pastry, whipped cream and chocolate sauce for an elegant dessert or serve them alone as part of a wine and cheese tasting. They are simple, sophisticated, and easy and I love them. I do not however, recommend red wine poached pears as highly. Sure, the flavor is there, but they tend to come out a pink color rather than the deep lush red, which you may see in cooking magazines. Then, to make matters worse, if in moving them you knick the edge of the pear, you end up with something that looks like chipped wooden furniture.

3-4 pears. Peeled, stems left on (you can with a paring knife remove the core working from the bottom, but this seems like overkill)
2 cups white wine
2 cups sugar
3-4 cups water (enough to cover pears)
Zest (in strips) of 1 orange, plus the juice
2 star anis
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Place everything into a 5-quart stockpot and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Gently turn the pears once or twice during cooking. Cook until the pears are tender (about 25 minutes) Remove from liquid and serve.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Cooking, cooking and more cooking

I am just about to finish another summer reading book The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry by Kathleen Flinn. The book is about a woman, who looses her job, then enrolls at the le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris. It is a joy to read through the story of her journey, as she goes form a corporate job to a cooking student fulfilling her dreams. A fun summer read.

A few days ago I made poached pears. Initially, the plan was to poach the pears, then, create little puff pastry squares. I wanted to layer puff pastry, poached pears and whipped cream for a stunning dessert. It never happened. I poached the pears, they turned out delicious and we ate them as is. Then yesterday, I took a cooking class at Sur la Table and saw another use for poached pears. In a tart! The poached pears were thinly sliced and baked into a delicious tart with an almond cream filling. It was love at first bite. I am happy to share with you my recipe for poached pears so you can create your own ways to use them.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Pasta Puttanesca


Pasta Puttanesca is one of those dishes with a lot of stories about its humble beginnings. My favorite is that the dish originated in Naples, Italy and was named after the local “ladies of the evening” who would make it. Did they make it as a way to entice in more male “clientele” to their brothel? Did they make it for themselves as a quick meal? It doesn’t matter. It is fast and inexpensive, and if you do a lot of Italian cooking chances are good that most of the ingredients are already in your pantry or garden.

2 Tablespoons of olive oil
3-4 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
3 anchovy fillets
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1can (28 oz) whole tomatoes, drained of most liquid and crushed gently with your hands
½ cup black olives, pitted- I am certain that they would have originally served the dish with the pits, but it is easier eating the dish with the pits removed
3 tablespoons drained capers
Handful of torn fresh basil to garnish
Extra virgin olive oil to finish (I toss in almost ¼ cup)

This Puttanesca sauce is served tossed with 1 pound of cooked pasta. I am using cooked and drained Bucatini as that is what I have in my pantry; the long “spaghetti” shaped pastas seem to work well. Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the box then drain it before tossing it in the sauce.

So for the sauce place a large sauté pan on medium heat. Add in the olive oil, garlic, anchovy fillets, and red pepper flakes. Cook stirring often, for about 3-4 minutes, careful not to burn the garlic.

Add in the tomatoes, turn heat to high, then lower to a simmer for 10 minutes. Add in the olives, capers and torn fresh basil then toss with the pasta. I like to also add in the extra virgin olive oil and toss to coat the pasta. I serve this with a bit of Parmesan cheese.

* Feel free to adjust the amounts of the ingredients to your taste, if you like it spicy add more red pepper flakes etc.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Omelette aux Fines Herbes


(Omelet with fine herbs)
Serves 1

I think of this as a summertime treat, when herbs such as basil or parsley can be picked straight from the garden and incorporated into a basic omelet, it is also a very fast meal.


1 tablespoon butter
2 organic eggs
Pinch of kosher salt
Dash of heavy cream- about a teaspoon
1 Tablespoon minced herbs

In a small bowl beat together the eggs, salt and cream and herbs. Place your 7 or 8” non-stick omelet pan on high heat. Put in butter and swirl to melt but don’t let it brown. Turn heat down just a bit if necessary. Add in the egg. Stir rapidly at first then once the egg starts to set pull the edges of the omelet away from the sides just a bit so the uncooked egg can drizzle down and cook. Push the omelet forward in the pan so the top part rises above the top of the pan. Fold the bottom part over to enclose the filling then flip the omelet out onto a plate by first placing down the top part of the omelet then rolling the rest of the omelet over it.

Aux Epinards
(With Spinach)
In winter, in place of the herbs 1-2 Tablespoons of cooked minced spinach can be added in the same manner as stated above

Brioche


My Brioche breadmaking came out rather well so I though I should share a photo.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Food Weekend



Well, yesterday was rather exciting, we as a family, went to see Mario Batali sighing his newest cookbook. I was able to get a shot of the kiddies NEAR Mario but decided not to wait in the gigantic line for a more up close photo. We were able to sample some of the items from his cookbook, Asparagus wrapped in Pancetta, Grilled Polenta with Ribiola (the Ribiola tasted just like Brie) and a flatbread with melted cheese. Also, we were able to taste a few of Mario’s wines, which was fun.

Last evening for dinner I made Red Snapper, marinated in Ponzu and served with baby bok choy and a mustard sauce. It was very good and seemed pretty healthy as well.

For the better part of the morning I have been working on a Brioche recipe. I love the eggy and buttery Brioche but am not a big fan of the more traditional recipes that require making the bread a day ahead, then refrigerating it over night. Who can wait that long?

All in all it’s been a productive “food” weekend, the photo of the red Snapper is above.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Ice Cream Base


This base is simply a larger batch of the French dessert sauce Anglaise. Allow it to cool in you refrigerator before placing it into the Ice Cream machine, then follow machine instructions. You may choose to add in Alcoholic, coffee, or other liquid flavorings before you put the sauce in the machine. As the Ice cream starts to firm up you will then want to add in solid items like chocolate chips, cookies or other items.

3 cups heavy cream
12 teaspoons sugar (1/3 cup)
6 egg yolks


Place the cream into a non-stick saucepan, and then scald (bring to just below the boil) the heavy cream. Whisk in the sugar then set aside. Whisk the egg yolks in a medium bowl then, slowly drizzle about a tablespoon of hot cream at a time into the egg yolks and whisk as you drizzle (to temper the eggs). Once you have added in about three or four tablespoons slowly whisk the egg yolk mixture into the non-stick saucepan. Place back on medium to high heat and stir constantly for about 2 minutes or until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. Strain mixture then place it in the refrigerator to cool.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Chicken Saltimbocca


In Italian Saltimbocca means, “jump in the mouth”. This tasty dish can be made with chicken or veal. You might not think of this as a summer dish, however, there is nothing more satisfying that walking out to your herb garden in July and picking the freshest sage leaves for this satisfying dish. Once cooked, I will sometimes top the chicken with a bit of cheese and warm the chicken in the oven, children seem to love it served that way. Creamy polenta is an excellent side dish.

5 chicken breasts- (about 2 ½-3 pounds)- You will want to trim and pound the chicken thin for scaloppini, worry not is the pieces aren’t all perfect. I use all the “scraps” for popcorn chicken. You can by the “thin cut” chicken and the work will be done for you already.
13-16 sage leaves (1 per slice of chicken)
13-16 pieces or prosciutto (1 piece or half a piece per chicken depending on the final size of the cutlet, better to have extra prosciutto than not enough)
2/3 cup flour
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
½ teaspoon kosher salt

For cooking the chicken-
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons oil

To begin you will place 1 piece of prosciutto on top of each pounded thin “scaloppini” chicken piece. On top of each prosciutto place a sage leaf. Insert a toothpick through the sage leaf. Push toothpick down through the chicken and then up again through the sage leaf to secure the items together. Repeat with all of the chicken.

Into a shallow breading dish, add the flour, salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Dip each piece of chicken into the flour to coat both sides lightly.

To cook the chicken (I am using an non stick 14” pan) add the butter and oil and turn heat to high. When oil is hot, sear each side of the chicken for about 2 minutes per side (about 1 minute per side if cooking veal). Cook in batches, adding extra oil to pan as cooking progresses if it seems necessary. Remove chicken and set aside.










Chicken Saltimbocca- page 2


For the pan sauce-
Empty out your pan of excess oil.
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups white wine
3-4 tablespoons butter
Juice of half a lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
Over high heat add the chicken stock and white wine. Reduce to about 1 cup of liquid. Whisk in the butter and lemon juice, season with salt and pepper and serve over the chicken.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Sangria

A friend just e-mailed and asked for a Sangria rec.- I thought I should share this on the blog since it is that time of the year... feel free to change the fruits that you add to the drink, based on what you have on hand- enjoy!

1 bottle of red wine 750ml
1 cup fresh orange juice
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup water
2 apples finely chopped- skin left on is fine
Juice of 1 lemon
6 oz fresh raspberries or other berries
1 half-cup container of mandarin oranges in their juice
¼ cup grand Marnier


In a sauce pan combine sugar and water and bring to a boil until sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and set aside. In a large pitcher add the wine, orange juice, cooled simple syrup (the water sugar mixture) the apples the lemon juice, raspberries, oranges and syrup, and grand Marnier. Serve in large goblet with lots of ice.- you may add a dash of brandy if you would like the drink stronger but I like its sweet light flavor.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Spit-Roasted Tuscan style pork (Arista)


Arista, from the Tuscan region of Italy. Traditionally, a pork loin cooked on a spit of an old wood-burning oven. Today, pork loin is a very inexpensive cut of meat to buy and I am always surprised by how few cookbooks have recipes for it. This recipe uses pork with no bone. If you have ever had “dry like sawdust” pork, I can assure you that this is very much the opposite.

About 41/2 pounds pork loin, no bone
9 medium cloves of garlic, peeled and cut into thin slivers

Making slits all over the meat with your knife, insert the garlic into the slits

Into a mini food processor place-
2 Teaspoons kosher salt
Zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon ground pepper
8 fresh sage leaves
3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme (use leaves only, not stems)
1 small fresh sprig of rosemary (leaves only no stems)
3 Tablespoons olive oil

Pulse the processor 7 or 8 times or until you have a liquid paste. Pour and rub the past all over the meat. Every 1”-1 1/2” tie the meat with kitchen twine. Insert the spit, and place the pork in the oven. Turn on your rotisserie option, then cook the pork for about 90 minutes or until pork reaches about 145 degrees. Let pork rest before carving very thin slices.

And It’s Absolutely Not Italian Sauce-
*Perhaps its very un-Tuscan, and I should not be revealing this to you, but to finish the dish I reduce about 1 cup of port down by at least half, add in the pan juices, about a tablespoon of demi-glaze, a bit of water and simmer. To finish the quick sauce I add a bit of butter. Ohhh, OK every Italian in the world is now rolling around with laughter, I know that is a “French” style sauce, but hey, the French make great sauces…

Time out

I have been at home now for a week with children “On Vacation”. I am not sure how it happened but somehow my statement, “the lesson is over, lets go” was translated in my little ones head as “let’s walk straight into a chair and split our lip open”. I was planning to make a lovely panna cotta – or cooked cream this week. Panna cotta is most often served as wonderful creamy dessert but is sometimes served with less sugar and more cheese as part of a cheese or salad course. Anyway, no panna cotta. I am sorry to say that all of the heavy cream that I ordered from Peapod got added to mashed potatoes for little ones that prefer to be spoon fed when hurt. On the bright side, I was able to make a delicious Tuscan style spit roast pork with the help of my rotisserie oven. I cannot wait for some time out in order to type out the recipe and get it to you.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Crostini of cinnamon raisin bread, Gorgonzola cheese and diced apples


I am having a group of women over for a wine tasting and wanted finger food that was easy to prepare. This Hors D’Oeuvre is so simple that it seemed almost crazy to try to type it out as a formal recipe, so I won’t!

Here is generally what you will need-

1 loaf cinnamon raisin bread- I get mine from a local German bakery, they slice it for me.
1 hunk of Italian Gorgonzola cheese
Apples, about 3 or more- I cut them into a medium dice (skin on) as I am about to assemble the crostini, however, if you plan to cut them in advance make sure to toss them in a bit of lemon juice so they won’t discolor.

Ok, so you take a slice of bread and lightly toast it in your toaster-then cut it into quarters. Spread about ½ teaspoon or less Gorgonzola cheese on each quarter of the bread and top with 2 apple slices. Repeat until you have run out of supplies. Easy right?
If you have extra bread left I will tell you that cinnamon raisin bread freezes well and also is delicious in bread pudding.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Apprentice

If you think that I am not publishing a recipe today because I spent the weekend poolside, you would be wrong. I am a die-hard couch potato who spent the better part of Fathers Day weekend (Happy Fathers Day, for all you dads) engrossed in a book. Not since Julia Child, My Life in France, have I been unable to separate myself from a book.

I thought that since I couldn’t put it down but for a few brief minutes to make Fathers day dinner (Five-Spiced Roasted Main Lobster with Port-Poached Figs and Sautéed Moulard Duck Foie Gras from French Laundry) you might like the book as well.

The Apprentice My life in the Kitchen by Jacques Pepin is great summer reading for anyone interested in food.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Chinese Five Spice Pork with peaches


Oddly, recipes for pork with peaches can be found in both French cookbooks and cookbooks from areas around the USA like Georgia. The combo is perfect, for a hot June dinner. Sometimes the pork is roasted, or the peaches are grilled. Though the recipes change a bit the principal remains the same, pork and peaches are a delicious combination. My recipe is a bit different from the others because I have used Chinese five spice for additional flavor. Chinese five spice can be found in most grocery stores in the spice isle. The spice has a lovely cinnamon-hot/sweet flavor. While this all might sound a little complicated, the recipe is actually very easy.

6 juicy peaches, cut into thin slices, as best as you can, working around the pit, the leave skin on. Set aside.
1.3 pounds of pork tenderloin, pounded thin as for scaloppini
1 cup white wine
1/3 cup Sherry vinegar
2 Tablespoons honey

The spice rub-
½ teaspoon Chinese Five Spice
½ teaspoon course ground pepper
Large pinch of kosher salt


Combine the spices in a small bowl then sprinkle them all over the cutlets. Into a non-stick skillet add the white wine, vinegar, and honey. Turn heat to high and reduce liquid in half. Add the peaches and set aside. Place a grill pan on high heat. Spray or oil the pan then cook the cutlets about 2 minutes on the first side and 1-2 minutes on the second side, or until cooked through. Pour the peach mixture over the cutlets and serve with couscous or salad.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Duck Spring rolls


These little duck spring rolls are often served at cocktail parties. They are fairly easy to make and many of the simple steps can be done in advance, requiring only simple last minute assembly. In trying to photograph these little babies, I think I got Hoisin sauce on my camera lens. I must apologize for the photograph; unfortunately, it is the best of the worst.

To poach the duck-
You will need
2 Duck breasts (about 8 oz each)
¾ cup red wine
¾ cup chicken stock
1 piece of lemon grass, cut into 2” long chunks
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
1 piece of ginger about 1” – cut in half

Place the duck, red wine. Chicken stock, lemongrass (fresh please), peppercorns, and ginger into a stockpot (a 5 quart is fine). Turn heat to high and allow liquid to boil then reduce heat. Simmer, partially covered for about an hour and a half, turning the breasts over 3 or 4 times during cooking. Remove breasts and cut into thin strips (about 1” long 1/8” thick) for assembly. These may be kept in a warm oven until you are ready to assemble, I like to add a little (tablespoon) of the rendered duck fat to help keep them moist.

The simple Hoisin sauce-
1 8 oz jar of Hoisin sauce
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
Juice of half a lime

Combine these ingredients in a small bowl and a little ahead of when you plan to assemble the spring rolls, and then set aside.

To assemble-
You will need the hoisin sauce, the duck, 1 cucumber cut into thin strips (seeds removed) and rice paper.

Run 1 sheet of rice paper under water for about 5 seconds. Place the damp paper onto a flat surface. Down the center of the paper add about a Tablespoon of duck, a few slices of cumber and a drizzle of Hoisin Sauce. Roll like a Burrito. Slice in half to serve.

Note: These seem to keep rather well and stay moist in Tupperware, just try not to layer on top of one another too much so you avoid sticking.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Braised Oxtail


Believe it or not, oxtail was not at all hard to find in my grocery store. I am used to cooking “strange” items. I am prepared to hunt a little for food. Goose is not easy to find, Beef cheeks seem to be a problem, Fennel Pollen is special order. Foie gras is special order but so expensive that I rarely follow through with my order anyway. So when I asked at store number for oxtail and found it immediately, I was pleasantly surprised.

Braised oxtail is absolutely delicious, the meat is very tender. Many people braise it then remove the meat from the bone, chop up the meat, add 1-2 eggs (scrambled), a little Parmesan cheese, then stuff the meat into pasta (ravioli, tortellini). Here I plan to just strain the braising liquid, add the chopped oxtail back in and serve it over pasta.

The braising liquid I cook first, as it need to reduce for ½-1 hour (or until somewhere between ¼-1/2 its original volume.

Braising liquid
2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 red onions, peeled and small dice
3 ribs celery, small dice
3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/8” slices
4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed with knife
2 bay leaves
1 bottle red wine (750 ml)
1 quart chicken stock
2 cans of crushed San Marzano tomatoes (28 oz each)

Into a medium – large stockpot add the oil. Add the onion, celery, and carrot and then cook over medium heat for about 7 minutes stirring often. Add in the garlic. Cook 1 minute more. Add in the bay leaves, red wine, chicken stock, and tomatoes. Turn heat up to simmer then, let mixture reduce by ¼ to ½ (about 1 hour).

In the meantime you can sear the Oxtails-

4 pounds beef oxtails
Salt, freshly ground pepper
Vegetable oil (about ¼ cup)
You will want to use a large braising pot if you have one (am using a large 14”in width caphalon one pan, whish is helpful because it has a cover). If you don’t have a large braising pan/pot then a large stockpot or small roasting pan will have to do. Season the meat with salt and pepper on both sides. Add to your pan enough oil to cover the bottom. Turn heat to high. Add the meat and sear the meat on all sides (10-15 minutes) Work in batches if you need too.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Artichoke Crostini


I have named this artichoke crostini for lack of a better title, maybe it is more of a rustic Bruschetta- but no matter... It is hardly even a recipe, yet it embodies all that is wonderful about summer cooking. I found these wonderful artichokes in the market then simmered them in oil and wine. Once cooked I slice the artichokes. Then, toasted several pieces of sourdough bread. On each toast place a scoop of ricotta cheese. On top of the cheese place the some cooked artichokes, a few pitted olives then drizzle with olive oil- season with salt and pepper. That’s it!

You will need
1 recipe Artichokes simmered in wine and oil
Toasted slices of sourdough bread
1 tablespoon of ricotta cheese to place on each piece of bread
Pitted black olives
The best olive oil you have, to be soaked up by the bread
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

Artichokes, trimmed then simmered in wine and oil-

At my market in June, artichokes are plentiful. I buy large bags of them and take advantage of their abundance to practice my knife skills. Artichokes can be trimmed in different ways. Today, I peel the outer “bottom” leaves off as one would peel a banana. I peel the leaves about halfway up the choke then lop off the top with a serrated knife. Working with a paring knife and vegetable peeler I remove the outer green “skin” from the bottom stem areas. Slice the choke in half lengthwise then with a paring knife or spoon remove the “choke”. Have ready a bowl of water with the juice of 2 lemons. Place the trimmed chokes into the water as you work. The acid from the lemons will help to prevent the artichoke from turning brown. Drain and rinse the artichokes then proceed with the recipe.

8 medium artichokes trimmed
¾ cup olive oil
1 cup water
2 cups white wine

Place the artichokes into a pot or Dutch oven and add the oil, water, and wine. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to simmer for 25-30 minutes. Drain and use in salads, on crusty breads, or well, almost anywhere…

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Chicken Satay


OK. Perhaps we think of this as well, a throwback to another time. Maybe so, but I did have it when I was out to dinner recently and it caught me off guard. It was good. The chef had added turmeric, which gave the chicken a lovely golden color. I set out to make my own version with the easy addition of chili garlic sauce (look for it in ethnic isle at your regular grocery store) then I grilled the chicken. Serve this with the traditional peanut sauce for your next gathering. It goes surprisingly well with many of the “Small Plate dishes” that we have all been serving of late.

20-30 wooden skewers soaked in water for 30 minutes prior to use
About 1 pound of boneless, skinless, chicken breasts- (thin cut for scaloppini) cut into
20-30 bite size pieces (try to cut them about 1 ½ - 2” in length and around 1” wide, or as best you can.
¼ cup canola oil
3-4 medium cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
½ teaspoon chili garlic sauce
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
1” knob of the inner, softer, part of Lemongrass, minced
Grated zest of 1 lime
1 teaspoon minced cilantro, (a small handful before mincing)
¼ teaspoon each, ground pepper and kosher salt
Oil or nonstick spray for your grill

Place the chicken into a mixing bowl with the oil, garlic, chili garlic sauce, turmeric, lemongrass, lime zest, and cilantro and let marinate for about 1 hour. Push the skewers through the chicken. Spray or oil the grill. Turn the heat to high (I am using a grill pan so you might want to adjust if using a outdoor grill). Place chicken on the grill and cook for about 2–3 minutes per side or just until chicken is cooked through on each side.

Peanut Dipping Sauce

A nice sauce/dip to have with chicken or beef Satay

1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
Juice from 1 lime
3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce
2 medium cloves of garlic, peeled and minced

In a medium bowl combine the peanut butter and the limejuice. In a small saucepan add the oil, chili sauce and garlic. Cook on medium high heat for a few minutes, just until the garlic becomes fragrant. Whisk the hot oil mixture into the peanut butter. Re-season with a pinch of salt and additional chili sauce if you prefer a spicier sauce.

* Chili garlic sauce is by Lee Kum Kee and I get it at my regular grocer.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

How to boil Eggs


This seems to be an easy enough task, unfortunately I have seen plenty greenish/grayish eggs-enough of them to think that I should share my method.

Boil a pot of water in a Kettle
Place eggs into a pot. Fill the pot slowly with the boiled water, enough to cover eggs by about 1”. Turn heat to high until a soft boil returns. Reduce heat slightly (enough so that the eggs are not bouncing around the pan). Simmer for 11 minutes. Prepare an ice bath- a bowl filled with ice and water. After eggs have finished cooking remove them from the hot water and slide them into the ice bath to cool slightly. This will help prevent horrid looking green eggs; instead the center will be golden.

*There are many other methods for boiling an egg. I like this one because its simple and it works- that’s not to say that other methods won’t work as well.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Prosciutto wrapped Asparagus


1 Bunch of asparagus, trimmed
2 packages of Prosciutto (or Serrano ham) 4 oz each
Olive oil
Salt, freshly ground pepper


Preheat to 400

Divide each slice of Prosciutto in thirds lengthwise; roll each piece of asparagus in Prosciutto. Once wrapped, place all of the pieces on a baking sheet and drizzle with 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Place in oven for about 10 minutes.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Spit Roasted leg of lamb


The origins of this dish are mainly Greek. I purchased a leg of lamb, boned it, saved the bones for stock and cooked the meat on the spit. All this trouble is unnecessary though. I went through the trouble since I am planning to use the bones for lamb stock. If you want to skip this step, simply visit your butcher and ask for your leg of lamb boned and tied for spit roasting.

Marinade-
4-5 cloves garlic, skin removed
1 cup olive oil
Place the lamb into a large plastic baggie along with the oil and garlic-

Marinate in fridge 1-2 days

When ready to cook-
2 Tablespoons Kosher salt
1 Tablespoon freshly ground pepper
1-2 Tablespoons dried oregano or Marjoram
Juice from ½ a lemon
½ teaspoon paprika (Spanish)

Remove lamb from marinade, lay it flat on a countertop and season it on both sides with salt pepper and Marjoram. (If pre tied just do your best to stuff some seasonings inside log of meat. Add the Marinade liquid (oil) and rub it into the meat and scatter the garlic cloves over the meat (or stuff then into the log). Pour the juice from half a lemon all over the lamb. Roll, and then tie up the meat with about 2-3 feet of butchers twine, so that it will not come loose on the spit. Insert metal rod and rotisserie prongs to hold the meat in place. Season the outer areas of the lamb with paprika then place in your oven to cook for 2- 2 ½ hours. I prefer a longer cooking time so that the outer parts of the lamb get almost crunchy, though this obviously will cause the inner areas to be pink but not medium rare, as many American are used to eating their lamb.

Optional garnishes-
Lamb sauce – I like to take the lamb juices, skimmed of fat and strained, and add them to a saucepan. Add in about 1 tablespoon demi-glaze, 1 cup water, a dash of heavy cream and season with salt and pepper. Cook this down to desired consistency and serve over lamb.
Lemon confit- if you made lemon confit (see recipe) then you will remove 1 lemon from salty brine, rinse it, cut off pulp and white pith and mince up yellow zest. This adds a nice salty note to the lamb and pretty color as well
Chive oil- if you have some around it add a lovely green color
Tapinade- (see recipe) chunks of tapinade all over the lamb are fantastic

Monday, May 19, 2008

Ham and Mahon cheese Croquettes


This style croquettes are often served as part of Spanish Tapas. As part of Tapas they are quite elegant. The big bonus here, is that children seem to love them as well.

1 oz of Mahon cheese, grated
4 Tablespoons butter
4 Tablespoons flour
1 cup milk, warm
Large pinch of salt
1 ham steak (7oz) rind removed and minced (I am using Smithfield)

1-2 eggs scrambled
½-1 cup wondra flour
Vegetable oil for frying

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan (I am using non-stick). Over medium to low heat whisk in the flour or stir it in with a wooden spoon. Slowly, stir in the milk. Stir to make sure there are no lumps. Raise heat to high and keep stirring. Mixture will thicken like pudding and pull away from sides of the pan. Whisk or stir in cheese, salt and ham. Chill mixture in refrigerator 2-3 hours.

You can use a large melon baler to scoop, or about ½ of a heaping tablespoon of batter. Take the batter and roll into a ball. Repeat with remaining batter. Dip the batter into the scrambled egg then roll in the wondra flour.

Fry in 350-degree oil for about 3-5 minutes or until a little golden in color.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Hello, Cupcake!


Hello, Cupcake! -a book by Karen Tack & Alan Richardson

I first walked by the beautiful cupcakes at Sur La Table. They looked so nice, and perfect, I thought no way will I ever attempt that kind of cake decorating. That, is for people who decorate wedding cakes, not me. When I got home I looked the book up online and it turns out that most of the cupcake tricks and decorations are made from stuff that anyone can get in a grocery store or gas station! The book even uses canned frosting, boxed mixes, goldfish, Oreo’s, and wait for it…, yes, Twinkies!

I returned to Sur La Table and picked up a copy.

My kids spent hours looking through the book, trying to decide which cupcakes they want for their next birthday party. This morning we set up bowls of goodies and frosting then they went to work (for hours and hours I tell you) creating their own “faces” on the cupcakes. Granted, our cupcakes don’t look quite as pretty as the ones in the book yet, but having read the book I now feel like I too can create Martha like goodies for the next bake sale. At $15.95 the book was better and more fun that any babysitter, gave us great and very creative ideas and was a huge hit.

Bobby Flay, Grill It


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Chicken on a Spit

Many modern ovens include a rotisserie option. I find this is a great way to cook a 4-5 pound bird. It is easy, and a snap to prepare. I love the idea of the chicken cooking around lunchtime while I work on other projects. The rotisserie will help give you nice crispy skin and very tender and juicy dark meat.

One 4-5 pound chicken
1 head of garlic with the top cut off
1 lemon, quartered
2- tablespoons room temp butter
Salt and pepper

This is about as simple as it gets. You will place garlic and as much lemon as will fit into the cavity of the chicken. If you have a few thyme sprigs feel free to throw those in as well. Truss the chicken with twine (see how to truss a chicken) then rub the outside with butter. Season the outside with salt and freshly ground pepper. Insert the metal spit and place chicken in rotisserie. You will want to cook this, as per the time given in the instructions that came with your oven. My oven suggests 2 hours, presumably this factors in the amount of time the oven takes to heat up. Feel free to throw in a handful of sliced or diced potatoes on a baking sheet to soak up the chicken drippings. Yum.

Spit Roasting

Spit Roasting is a great way to prepare a dinner. Options include spit roasting on your grill or in an oven. In both cases a metal rod is inserted through a piece of meat and then into a mechanical device, which will turn the meat continuously while cooking. I am spit roasting in my large countertop oven, so, cooking times may vary slightly if you are using an outdoor grill.

Traditionally, large portions of lamb, duck, and pork are prepared on the spit. If fact, some people claim that spit roasting is the best way to prepare duck, since duck is so fatty it bastes it self as it turns. Don’t be put off from buying a spit device because you think them too complicated. They are quite simple to use and will free you to focus on other parts of your meal. A butcher can tie up the meat for you and you can simply insert the rod then set the timer.

Monday, May 12, 2008

How to Bone a Leg of Lamb

A butcher can bone a leg of lamb for you, but I find it can just as easily be done at home. In order to cook, roast or otherwise, the much of the outer fat of the lamb leg can be removed especially any purple inspection stamps. Try to leave a smaller layer of fat directly over the meat, but with a knife I shave off quite a bit of the excess chunks of fat.

It should be said that roasting a lamb with the bone is more flavorful, but if you are placing the lamb on a spit/rotisserie, grilling the lamb or simply doing a roast for company, sometimes a boned lamb is easier to deal with particularly when it time for carving the meat. The lamb bones need not be wasted though. I save mine for stock. Some butchers will also sell you half a leg, and if you get the part without the “pelvic” bone, carving is quite easy.

I bone the leg of lamb by first removing much of the outer fat, then, staring with the “pelvic” area, make small incisions around the bones with a boning knife, separating the meat from the bone. Once all of the meat has flopped away from the pelvic area, I make one long incision all the way down the primary leg bone. After this incision is made it is quite simple to work the rest of the meat away from the bone. Once the meat is off the bone you will be able to lay it flat on your cutting board.

To butterfly- it is simple enough to “butterfly” the meat at this stage by making 4-5” incisions with your knife wherever the meat looks much thicker than the rest. This will help the meat to cook more evenly.

How to Truss a Chicken

To be perfectly honest, I don’t always truss a chicken when I roast it. I do however; truss a chicken before placing it on a spit. Often, if just roasting the chicken in the oven I will simply tie the legs together at the cavity opening. On the other hand, to place the bird on a spit, in a Rotisserie oven, un-Trussed is crazy because the bird will be flopping around all over your oven.

To truss the chicken, cut yourself about 2 feet of kitchen twine. Place the chicken, with the cavity end facing you on a flat surface. The roundish, knobby part of the leg bones will be upward and facing in your direction. The floppy, tail skin will be on your flat cutting surface.

Take the twine and place it underneath the floppy tail skin, half the twine on one side, half on the other. Bring the twine up the outside of each leg, then into the central cavity area, crossing the strings over as you go.

Take the strings and pull them straight back in the direction of the wings. In doing this the string will pass over the leg, thigh area, and then over the wings. Wind the string over the neck, pulling tightly, and tie.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Salmon Spread (for Mothers Day)


This is so easy to make and a great way to use those few extra pieces of smoked salmon from a dinner party. I plan leave a batch of this in the refrigerator on the night before mothers day, in hopes that someone will offer to toast me a bagel in the morning.
My family can make toast. (I think)

8 oz cream cheese
½-3/4 cup crème fraiche
4-5 slices of smoked salmon, minced
¼ of a red onion, minced
Large pinch of table salt and freshly ground pepper


Place the cream cheese, crème fraiche, salmon, onion, and salt and pepper into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Turn speed to medium and mix until combined. Serve on a toasted bagel, or even better an everything flagel, which is a bagel without all of the dough inside.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Tortilla Soup


Inspired by Mexican and other Latin flavors, this soup is a wonderfully warm, spicy and fragrant. Almost an instant cure for mid winter blues, but great in the summer as well.

2 pounds chicken breasts (season toss in 2-3 tablespoons olive oil, and season heavily with salt and pepper.- roast at 450 for about 30minutes or until cooked through. Let cool then chop into large dice)- alternately, dice up a small rotisserie chicken

2 Serrano chilies roasted (roast over a flame until skin is charred or toast in a skillet with a little oil until skin is blistered)- then dice, discard core and seeds

6 flour tortias, quickly fried (see below)

For soup base-
2-3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 medium size yellow onions, peeled and diced (medium dice)
3 cloves garlic peeled and minced
2 quarts chicken stock
1 can diced tomato (28oz)
2 Serrano chilies (see above)
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground pepper

Place the oil in a 5 quart Dutch oven. Turn heat to medium, add in onions and cook on medium – medium low heat for about 10 minutes stirring often. Add in garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add in the chicken stock, tomatoes, 2 diced serano chilies, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to simmer. Simmer for 25-30 minutes. Once the soup base cools slightly puree in blender then transfer to a new pot or serving dish.

To serve/garnish
6-8 Flour tortias, cut to thin strips and shallow fried in vegetable oil for only a moment or two per side) * this garnish is a must! This may be prepared a few hours in advance.
Large handful of chicken
Lime wedges

Optional-
1 ½ cups jack/ cheddar or Mexican cheeses grated or crumbled
2-3 avocados peeled and diced or spoonfuls of Guacamole
Sour creamRoasted peppers, diced

Monday, May 5, 2008

Huevos Rancheros


A Latin American dish (Mexican) involving fried tortillas, and fried eggs. This is a great late breakfast or even a light supper dish, as it is very filling. The recipe here serves one person, obviously, you will just increase quantities depending on how many people you are serving. Like eggs benni- much of this is about assembly. Canned beans rather than refried beans are used to lighten things up a bit.

2 eggs
1 large handful of fried flour tortillas
1/3 cup homemade or good quality store bought salsa
1/3 cup black beans from a can (drained)
½ of an avocado, diced
1 heaping tablespoon crème fraiche, minced with 1 teaspoon half and half
Freshly minced parsley or cilantro to garnish
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


Break the eggs into a small non-stick pan; cook covered, on medium low to medium for about 2-3 minute or until cooked to your liking. Meanwhile place the tortillas onto a plate, spoon on salsa. Slide cook eggs on top of the tortillas and garnish with black beans, and avocado. Drizzle crème fraiche over the top and season with salt, pepper, and a sprinkling of fresh herbs


Please note: feel free to use Mexican crema, or sour cream in place of crème fraiche.

Tortillas


It is so simple to fry tortillas, that a recipe is almost unnecessary.
You will need-
1 package of flour Tortillas (or as many as you wish to fry)- cut into 1/8-1/2” strips
- Cut the very long ones in half
Vegetable oil
Course salt

I fill a 12” skillet half full with cooking oil then place it over medium – high heat. Once oil is hot (you will know it is hot because you will have tested 1 strip of Tortilla in the oil and it will start to cook and turn light golden in color). Add the tortilla strip in batches and cook them quickly. You are not looking for a deep golden color here but rather a “lightly toasted” look. Remove from heat and drain tortillas on paper towels. Season with salt and serve.



Instead of frying

Whole tortillas may also be warmed over a gas flame

Whole flour tortillas can be wrapped in tin foil and warmed in a 350 oven for about 10-15 minutes

Cinco de Mayo

May 5th is the day Cinco de Mayo is celebrated. I can’t tell you much about the history of this holiday, only that it has something to do with the French occupation of Mexico. I can tell you that it is a festive day here in the United States. A day where people have fun and eat great food. That’s enough for me. I must at this point, confess, I had hopes of getting an easy mole recipe for you by now but I have been quite lazy lately. Must be spring fever.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Pastry Cream (French)


Pastry cream is not at all difficult to make. This version is enough to fill a tart (about 2 ½ cups). It is quite handy to have around. This version sets up (firms up) quickly so have your tart shell pre baked and ready to fill. If you prefer to make this ahead, as I sometimes do, the cream can be kept in the refrigerator for a couple of days if covered with plastic wrap.

1 ½ cups milk
6 egg yolks
½ cup sugar
Pinch of regular table salt
¼ cup cornstarch
2 tablespoons butter cut into small chunks
2 tablespoons rum

First scald the milk and set it aside. (Bring it to just below a boil)

In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, add the egg yolks and sugar. Whisk on medium-medium high speed for 2-3 minutes or until the color is lighter and the mixture falls over itself like a “ribbon” when drizzled from the whisk. Add in a pinch of salt.

Reduce speed to low and add in the cornstarch, then, slowly add in the milk. Once mixture is combined transfer it to a saucepan.

Whisk mixture non-stop, over medium or high heat until mixture thickens. Lower heat immediately once the mixture “breaks” or looks curdled. Continue to whisk. This mixture will begin to look smoother. Remove from heat and add in butter and rum.

For a tart, pour warm cream into pre-baked tart shell. Garnish with fresh fruit of your choice


To lighten/loosen it up-I often will whisk into to it ½-1cup of cream, measured then whipped.

Apricot Glace for fruit tarts- if making a tart with fresh fruit, you will most likely want to have it look all “shinny” like it’s from a bakery. This is easy enough to accomplish by boiling about ¾-1 cup apricot jam with 3 tablespoons sugar and 3 tablespoons water. Once mixture boils, strain it then brush it over the tart in question.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic



Sounds like a lot of garlic right? This old French dish is delicious because the garlic simmers away and becomes almost sweet and tender. Each medium sized head/bulb of garlic has about 14 cloves so you will need around 3-4 heads of garlic. Break up the heads and place the cloves into a large Tupperware. Shake, shake, shake and a lot of the skins will come off. The rest are easily peeled. This recipe is a bit different because the garlic and chicken are placed under the broiler after cooking to give them a lovely golden color and crispy skin.

1 chicken quartered (if you can’t figure out how to do this I am sure your butcher will help. Here I remove the breasts from the bone for easy serving but if you prefer to leave it on for more flavor that is fine)
Large pinch of salt and pepper to season the meat
40 cloves (aprox) of peeled garlic
3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 cup white wine
2-3 tablespoons melted butter

Sauce
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons water
¼ cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons cognac
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400
Place the chicken on a plate and season them with salt and pepper. Into a Dutch oven or stockpot (about 5 quart is fine) add the chicken, garlic, thyme, and white wine. Cover the pot and place into the preheated oven for 30 minutes. After thirty minutes you will check your chicken, if the breasts are cooked through and the juices run clear not pink, then you can carefully remove them. Recover the pot and place it back in the oven for another 10 minutes or until the leg meat is also cooked through. Remove pot from oven. Place all of the chicken parts on a baking sheet. Scoop out the garlic and add that to the baking sheet as well. Brush the chicken parts and the garlic with the melted butter. (And re-season with more salt and pepper if you like)

Position a rack about 5-6” away from broiler unit. Place chicken/garlic under the broiler for about 4-6 minutes or until the garlic is golden in color and the chicken skin is crispy.

Meanwhile, remove the thyme sprigs from the pot of cooking liquid. Whisk together the cornstarch and water- add it to the pot of liquid along with cream and cognac. Place pot over high heat and bring liquid to a boil. Reduce heat and season sauce with salt and pepper. To serve, add the golden garlic into the sauce and serve over the chicken.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Braised lamb with orzo (Greek)


2-2 ½ Pounds of lamb meat (I like to use the “for Stew” meat- it will have bones but they help flavor the dish)- another option would be to use lamb leg cut into 2” chunks
Salt and ground pepper to season the meat
2-3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion peeled and diced
1 can 24 oz of crushed san Marzano tomatoes
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Pinch of ground pepper
1 cup red wine
1 cup orzo
7 cups boiling water
Feta cheese to garnish, use as much as you like…

Preheat the oven to 350
Season beat with salt and pepper. Place a large braising pan or wide Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add in the vegetable oil then, when oil is hot, add the meat. Sear the meat on all sides (about 5-10 minutes total). Work in batches if you must.

Add all seared meat back into to the pot, lower the heat to medium- medium low. Add in the onions and stir. Cook onions for 2-3 minutes. Add in the tomatoes, salt and pepper, along with the wine. Cover your pot and place in the oven. Cook for 1 hour.

After 1 hour, remove the lid and add in orzo, along with boiling water. Stir. Re-cover the pot and cook and cook at 300 for 1 hour. After this hour you will remove the lid and let the lamb simmer away, uncovered, for another 2-3 hours. The orzo will become plum and the lamb will be falling off the bone. To serve, scoop out the tomato coated orzo; top it with lamb chunks then a generous helping of feta cheese chunks. This dish is a perfect for a “dinner party” since it can be prepared in advance, and then left to simmer in the oven for several hours.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Eggs Benedict


Eggs Benedict is, for the most part, about making poached eggs and hollandaise. After that it is all about assembling ingredients.

1 Recipe Hollandaise sauce
You will first want to make Hollandaise Sauce and keep it in a bowl over warm, but not simmering water while you poach the eggs. If the water gets too hot the sauce might “break”. I would prefer a room temperature sauce to a broken one so I might also suggest that you just hold it aside in the food processor while you quickly prepare other items.

English muffins must be broken in half and toasted. These can be kept in a warm oven.

For each English muffin you will need 2 poached eggs (see recipe for poached eggs)

For each English muffin you will need 2 slices of Canadian bacon sautéed until crispy (about 1-2 minutes per side)- These too may be done slightly ahead and kept in a warm oven.

To assemble- Place a piece of bacon on top of each muffin half. On top of each bacon place a poached egg then drizzle with a good size spoon full of Hollandaise.

Garnish with fresh herbs such as minced parsley; chives or I like little bits of thyme.


Variation-
Eggs Florentine or almost anything a la Florentine means with spinach. In this case you will simply substitute sautéed (and drained) spinach for the bacon.

Hollandaise

(1-1 ¼ cups)

Hollandaise is an old school French sauce, made from whipped egg yolks and butter. The two ingredients, when whipped together form a light creamy sauce to use on top of fish, asparagus or my personal favorite Eggs Benedict/Eggs Florentine (Benedict but with sautéed spinach in place of ham). You may never intend it drizzle this sauce over your vegetables (I don’t) but learning to make it is quite worthwhile if you love eggs benedict as I do.

The ingredients-
3 egg yolks
1 Teaspoon cornstarch
¼ teaspoon table salt
Dash of Tabasco (optional)
1 Tablespoon lemon juice or wine vinegar
1 ¼ sticks of butter – if doing this by hand over double boiler the butter will be room temp and cut into small, pea size chunks… If doing this in the more modern way the butter will be melted
Have on hand- heavy cream

THE OLD WAY-
Set up some simmering water in a pot (I use a pasta pot because they are taller and keep the eggs further away from the heat). Simmer but never boil the water. Set a large heatproof bowl over the pot and add the eggs. Whisk eggs for 1 minute. Whisk in the cornstarch, salt, Tabasco, lemon juice or vinegar, Then, slowly, a few pieces at a time, whisk in the lumps of butter until a creamy sauce forms.

THE MODERN (and I happen to think better/much quicker) WAY- it is so easy to make this sauce if you use a mini food processor. You will use melted butter in place of chunks.
Place your egg yolks, cornstarch, salt, Tabasco, and lemon juice or vinegar into the processor. Pulse a few times. With the processor running, pour the melted butter through the top 2 holes of the processors cover. Continue adding butter until you fell the sauce thickens and you have reached the desired consistency.

Why the Heavy cream? Well, if your sauce breaks or curdles from too much heat some say you can add a tablespoon of hot water and a tablespoon of heavy cream into the broken sauce and whip it up again. (Alternately you could start in a fresh bowl, whipping a new egg yolk and add the broken sauce back into the new egg) I happen to think these fixes are just ok at best- maybe its better to make a new batch…


Can I make it ahead? It’s so easy to make in the food processor that there is no need, but if you insist then refrigerate it. You can try to reheat it in the microwave (10 seconds at a time until warm) or over a water bath, or putting it back in the processor and pouring through the spouts 4-6 tablespoons of hot heavy cream.

Variations-
Sauce Béarnaise-Hollandaise with chopped shallots, parsley, tarragon, and lemon juice and reduced wine vinegar
Sauce Paloise- wit chopped mint and anchovy
Garlic Hollandaise - with minced garlic
Mustard Hollandaise- with mustard
Sauce Maltaise- basic sauce Hollandaise but with orange juice (about1Tablespoon of orange juice incorporated while making the sauce and 2-4 tablespoons of juice and or zest whipped in to the finished sauce) in place of lemon juice or vinegar

Thursday, April 17, 2008

How to kill a lobster

This is one of few moments in a home cooks life when they will actually have to kill their food. Most meat comes in pretty little packages from the market. Eventually, if you cook often, you too will have to deal with the lobster “issue”. There are a few options- I am not going to tell you which one you should choose, that is up to you. My aim is simply to provide details. I will say though, dealing with a live lobster in your home will give you a much-needed respect for the origins of most of your food.

The Grandma method- my grandma used to plunge the lobsters in boiling water headfirst. (2 minutes to kill them, then remove them if you plan to cook them again in another fashion). As ledged has it, she would scream every time she put one in the pot. I think of her every time I cook lobster.

The freezer method- some say it is most kind to place the lobster into the freezer for about 30 minutes (it makes them sleepy) before plunging them into the boiling water. I told my butcher of this method once and he though that was quite funny. “Sure, get them nice and sleepy and comfortable before you kill them, that very kind!” – his quote not mine.

Julia’s Method- well, this is the method provided for us in Mastering the Art of French Cooking if you object to steaming or splitting a live lobster- plunge the point of a knife into the head between the eyes, or sever the spinal cord by making a small incision in the back of the shell at the juncture of the chest and the tail. Humm, going at a lobsters hard shell, while its flopping around on your cutting board, using one of your cheapest knifes sounds like a recipe for disaster… but once again, I shall not judge.

The “I just can’t deal with this at all!” method- Lobster tails are sold uncooked and frozen from most fishmongers. I have also seen full, uncooked, frozen lobsters at some gourmet markets for double the price, and I doubt they taste as good. Your grocer might also be able to steam the lobster for you, but if you plan to re-cook the lobster be sure that he/she steams the lobster just long enough to kill it but dose not cook the lobster completely.

P.S- In case you are wondering, and I know that you are, I have never seen the rubber bands around the lobsters claws melt, when left attached to the lobster for only the first 2 minutes in boiling water