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, June 26, 2008


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…