Thursday, August 17, 2017

Tom Collins Goes French

The classic Tom Collins cocktail is also known by another name. By adding champagne instead of seltzer or club soda, you have a French 75. Recipes vary slightly, but the basics are: Shake the following in a cold cocktail shaker--ice, 1.5 oz gin or cognac, 3/4 oz fresh lemon juice, 3/4 oz simple syrup. Pour into a champagne flute and top with Champagne or sparkling wine. Garnish with a twist of lemon peel. Martha Stewart has a simple variation. On the Williams Sonoma site, you can find Ina Garten's recipe. Yes, she uses cognac. You can also find Ina's recipe for French 75 in her newest cookbook, "Cooking for Jeffrey."

The French 75 might be a fine way to toast the upcoming total solar eclipse, so read up and rush out now to find all of the ingredients for your fancy Tom Collins.

I'm feeling a bit thirsty. You?

Many variations on the basic recipe are all over the Internet.

If you don't have a tulip glass, any tall glass will do, but the eyes love a champagne flute.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

No Recipe Recipe

What? Say that again? The "No Recipe Recipe"? What is that?
Greens, zucchini, potatoes, lemon juice and olive oil.
For my summertime eating, this is the easiest "no recipe recipe" and it's traditional Greek cooking. In salted boiling water, you cook zucchini and potatoes; when done, remove to a large bowl and stir in the greens that you have (spinach, kale, Swiss chard...). When the greens are tender, add them to the large bowl. Now comes the hard part (just kidding). Squeeze lemon juice over everything and then drizzle on a good extra-virgin olive oil. When do you know you've added enough? Pull aside some of the vegetables and look at the accumulated liquids (oil, lemon juice and cooking water that came over with the veggies). There should be a nice mix of all three. You're done!

Serve this with a crunchy loaf of bread, Feta cheese, Kalamata olives and maybe a few wedges of tomato on the side. This is a super-healthy meal, and it comes together in no time...almost no time.

Sometimes, I have broccoli and no potatoes, so I use the broccoli and zucchini. No problem.

Consider that you already have many "no recipe recipes" in your bag of cooking tricks.

How about that salad that you pull together at the last minute? Have you ever made an omelet and stuffed it with a mix of vegetables that you had in your refrigerator? Or did you perhaps fill it with bits and pieces of different cheeses and top it with some of the salsa you had in the fridge from two nights ago? Maybe you cooked linguine, then managed to saute a red onion with olive oil and garlic, brown up leftover ham and toss in chopped tomatoes, some fresh basil from the garden and half a bag of peas from the freezer? Maybe you added a splash of white wine, some heavy cream and a bit of Parmesan cheese at the end? Yup! You're already cooking freestyle and without a recipe!

Another of my go-to "no recipe recipes" is broiled eggplant. It's faster and easier under the broiler, but you can also grill the eggplant. Here's what I do: Slice eggplant lengthwise (about 1/4 to 1/2 and inch thick). Lay them out on a large sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Broil until golden-brown and turn over to brown the other side. Remove to a large platter and sprinkle liberally with grated Parmesan cheese. If you have fresh parsley or basil available and the time to give it a quick chop, you can sprinkle some of that on top. You can also serve with homemade or store-bought tomato sauce on the side.

Do you have a "no recipe recipe that you'd like to share?

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Trinity of Summer: Bacon...Lettuce...Tomato

I know that Labor Day is coming up in the next few weeks and you want to grill, but doesn't this just make your mouth water? Crisp, refreshing lettuce, sweet Vidalia onions, perfectly ripened heirloom tomatoes. Cook a little bacon, grab the Duke's mayonnaise (Icon of the South) and a couple of lightly toasted slices of white bread and, BOOM, the perfect summertime meal!

What's your favorite mayonnaise? I stand by Duke's and I like a lot of it on my BLT. Sometimes I even add a few thin slices of Vidalia onion. Do you have something that  you add to your BLT?

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Meatloaf, Carbohydrates and Reversing Diabetes

For many people today, low-carb eating is a way of life. It is for me, although I do indulge at times and enjoy doing so. High-fat, low-carb is considered a healthier way to eat, especially for people with Diabetes and those who are fighting inflammation. You've heard of Atkins, Paleo and Keto diets; essentially, they are all high-fat and very low-carb. You can do your own research and make your own decisions. Here's a video that may help.

Regardless of your dietary decisions or eating lifestyle, the following recipe is fast, easy and, even though it's perfect for low-carb eating, utterly delicious!

Sage Scented Meatloaf...or Burgers...or Meatballs...or...

Yield: Two small hand-shaped meatloaves or 4-6 burgers, depending on how big you like your burgers. Or, if you like, turn this meaty mix into meatballs and fry them for a tasty appetizer… or meatloaf sliders…or a meatball sub…or brown in a pan and make fancy Sloppy Joes…or break up into your favorite jarred spaghetti sauce…or…

1 lb ground pork
1 lb pasture-raised ground beef
2 eggs
I cup shredded Italian cheese blend
2 T grated Parmesan cheese
2 t ketchup
1 t chili garlic sauce
2 T Worcestershire sauce
3 T chopped fresh sage leaves
3 T chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 small sweet onion, finely chopped (this is about 1 cup)
3 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 T hot tap water
1 t finely ground sea salt (Grey or Celtic)
½ t black pepper

Combine everything in a large mixing bowl and mix by hand. Shape into two loaves and place on a 13”x9” glass baking pan or a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake at 400F for 45 minutes. May be served immediately. Leftovers can be crumbled into a stir-fry or sliced for meatloaf sandwiches.

Notes: This recipe is very fragrant, highly seasoned and low-carb. I’ve added cheese to the mix to replace the breadcrumbs. Traditional Italian recipes for meatballs often include shredded mozzarella; as the cheese slowly melts into the mix, it keeps the meatballs light (not as dense) because of the small pockets vacated by the cheese. So, a light and well-seasoned meatball also translates to a light and well-seasoned meatloaf (or burger). I added a small amount of grated Parmesan cheese to give the meat mix a sharper, more robust flavor than the other cheeses offer.

A spicy ketchup is wonderful with meatloaf. This one doesn’t need it, although you’re welcome to use it if it’s your tradition and you’re not counting carbs. Another accompaniment might be a Beurre Blanc sauce using sage and parsley instead of the recommended mix, or a simple cream sauce reduction. (Sauté 1 small chopped garlic clove and 6 chopped large button mushrooms in 1 T each of butter and olive oil until soft. Stir in 1 t finely chopped sage leaves and 2 T white wine and allow to reduce by about half. Stir in 6 T heavy whipping cream and ½ t Dijon mustard. Simmer for about 2-3 minutes until reduced to a lightly thickened cream.)

I serve the meatloaf with sautéed mushrooms and Southern style cooked cabbage. Roasted vegetables would also pair up well, as would the more traditional mashed potatoes and a simple green salad with vinaigrette.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Eat Your Book

What's the perfect accompaniment to a good book? A good meal inspired by that book.

I belong to a small book club in a small South Carolina town. We read one book every two months and meet to discuss the book and eat. Whenever possible (and it's usually possible) we pair the food to the setting or focus of the book. For example, when the book was set in New York State, we all brought a deli-style item to share. Our meeting for "All the Light we Cannot See" was particularly delicious with French dishes. "The Complete Stories of Flannery O'Connor" meeting featured a table loaded with traditional Southern food, and earlier this year, the meeting to discuss "Brunelleschi's Dome" was a huge success with all manner of Italian Rennaisance dishes.

Where do you find recipes for Rennaisance dishes? Surprisingly enough (or not), on the internet! Our combined book-lovers' community menu included roasted chicken, mixed greens with green onions, polenta with mushrooms, orzo salad, Caprese salad and a fabulous wine-poached peach tart. While the salads were modern, they were Italian in flavor. The other dishes sound rather modern--something you might order at the newest downtown bistro--but they're quite authentic for the foods that were available and being prepared during the Renaissance period in Italy.

Most recently, we enjoyed discussing "Hero of the Empire," a wonderful non-fiction account of the life and adventures of a young Winston Churchill and his involvement in the Boer War. We learned a great deal about leadership, good and bad examples on both side of the war, and about the events that helped to shape the future Prime Minister of Great Britain. The food focus was South African. We dined on traditional chicken curry, Bobotie and Sambal and enjoyed fabulous gin cocktails and South African wines. Researching the history of traditional South African foods was as much fun for me as reading the book.

Don't you want to join our book club?

Monday, July 17, 2017

Teach Children About Food

There's not much to add.

He tells a very sad story about how a lack of food knowledge is killing children all over the U.S. The parents, not knowing much about food or food preparation themselves, are helping to kill their own children.

And if you need a second opinion...

This is a crisis and should be deemed an emergency.

Children are our future, yes. We can help them. Jamie Oliver has solutions. Let's all join the FOOD REVOLUTION.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Barley Risotto With Vegetables

Risotto, the traditional Northern Italian dish, uses a short-grain rice and a long and slow cooking process to release the starch from the rice. This starch creates a creaminess, which might make you wonder if heavy cream was used. While risotto is utterly delicious, it doesn't offer much of a nutritional punch.
Barley, one of the superfood grains, offers high levels of manganese, selenium, fiber and B vitamins. It's also a great accomplice for controlling cholesterol and blood sugar. Hulled barley is the best with a higher dose of nutrition, but it takes a very long time to cook and can be difficult to source. Pearl or pearled barley is a good compromise. While the nutritional values are lowered due to the removal of the bran, cooking time is greatly reduced. It's also easier to find in your local grocery store.
A bowl of uncooked pearled barley

How about a barley dish cooked in the style of risotto making? It's not going to be as creamy as the one made from rice, but it will be just as delicious, a little more nutty in flavor and much better for your overall health. While it will still take 45 minutes to one hour to prepare, that's still an easy accomplishment. You can cook this barley risotto while you set the table, empty the dishwasher, prep the chicken for grilling, make a jug of sangria and respond to a few emails and texts. See, not that difficult.

The Recipe

The Barley Risotto
6 T extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 c pearled barley
1 c white wine
6 c chicken stock
1/2 stick butter
1/2 c grated or shredded parmesan cheese
1/2 c shredded asiago cheese

Heat the stock in a saucepan and lower the heat to keep hot.

Over medium to high heat, pour the oil into a large pan. Saute the onion until it's softened. Stir in the barley and cook until it has browned lightly. Pour in the wine. Use caution as the barley will sizzle and splatter. Stir continuously until most of the wine has been absorbed. Ladle in about half a cup of chicken stock and stir. Reduce heat so that the barley simmers. Now you can set the table and unload the dishwasher, but keep a close eye on the pan. This dish will require constant attention and quite a bit of stirring.

Keep adding stock and stirring until the barley is tender but still a bit chewy. Once it's ready, stir in the butter and cheeses and remove from heat.

Pour onto a large platter or shallow bowl and top with sauteed vegetables. If you wish, you can serve grilled chicken or salmon on the side.

Note: Depending on the heat setting and the barley, you may need to use a little more stock or water. For vegetarian option, use vegetable stock. To make this dish vegan, replace cheese with a vegan-approved replacement and replace the butter with one quarter cup of really good extra-virgin olive oil. You may need to add coconut cream and salt at the end to get a creamier consistency.

The Vegetables
4 T extra virgin olive oil
2 T butter
1 c diced red, yellow and green peppers (a mix of all three)
2 c diced mushrooms (any combination)
1 cup diced yellow squash
1 bunch asparagus (tough ends removed and spears cut into 2" to 3" pieces)
1/2 c chicken stock or water
1/4 c julienned basil or chopped Italian parsley

Once the risotto is under way, heat the oil and butter in a large non-stick pan. Once the butter has melted, stir in all of the vegetables except the asparagus. Continue to stir until all of the vegetables have softened a bit, then stir in the asparagus and season with salt and pepper. Add the stock or water and allow to cook until the asparagus has softened just a little and there is still a bit of liquid in the pan. Set aside.

Once the risotto is ready to serve, reheat the vegetables over high heat and stir in the fresh basil or parsley. Pour over the risotto.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Easiest Shrimp Salad

The Number One Easy Shrimp Salad
(a no recipe recipe)

One (2 lb) bag of cooked  large or extra-large/jumbo shrimp (buy frozen and thaw in refrigerator overnight)
One bag mixed salad greens (pre-washed)
One large cucumber (peeled and sliced)
One small bag of radishes (wash them, cut off any dark spots and slice)
One large tomato cut into small wedges or large chunks (Heirloom varieties are best or a nice meaty one that's properly ripened)
One quarter of a large red onion (sliced thinly)
Fresh basil, about 10 large leaves (wash and pull off leaves, roll together and slice thinly/julienne)

Whisk together 1/4 c red wine vinegar and 1/2 c extra virgin olive oil

Remove shells from shrimp (if they came with shells on). Pat dry with a towel. Cut shrimp into two or three pieces each.

Toss all ingredients with a little salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Add dressing and toss again to coat.

The Next Easiest Shrimp Salad
(if you have time to grill)

2 lbs large or extra-large shrimp (deveined, shell on)

1 c good mayonnaise
1 t. lemon juice
2 T finely chopped red onion
4 T finely chopped fresh basil or dill

Grill shrimp and place in a large bowl. When cooled enough to handle, remove shells and squeeze fresh lemon juice over the shrimp. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.

Whisk together dressing ingredients and toss with shrimp. Serve with sliced avocado and lemon wedges on the side.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

My July Fourth Food

I did my fabulously simple bratwurst in the oven (in a cast iron pan this time) and added a side of  a Greek vegetable stew with lima beans, artichokes, tomatoes and dill. It's Independence Day, right? I felt free to make this an international dinner. Results? Delicious. How was your July Fourth?
Brats cooked in the oven. See previous post for directions.
Brats served with the Greek lima bean, artichoke & tomato stew.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Brats on the Go: Fast food that's good for you

Fast-paced life, stuck at work, stuck in traffic, but the food needs to hit the table when everyone's hungry. What to do? Preparation is good, having certain items in the freezer ready to thaw and cook is very helpful, but often you need to throw something in a pan, pull together a salad and eat.

Brats are a lifesaver! I put six in a small roasting pan or glass baking dish, roast for 30 minutes and serve with this easy honey-mustard sauce and steamed broccoli or a refreshing green salad. Boom! Dinner's done!
Smoke gets in your eyes when you grill, so why cook your brats that way?

Yes, I cook bratwurst in the oven. Not on the grill, not in a pan on the stove. No coals to heat for grilling and no oil all over my stove to be cleaned up later. Preheat the oven to 400 F and place the bratwurst in a lightly oiled glass baking dish. * They don't burn, they brown evenly and clean up is a breeze.

If you're in need of something for a social event, pull the brats out of the oven when they're done and cut into thick diagonal slices (cut on the bias about 1" thick). Pile them up on a plate next to a big bunch of pickled okra with a little bowl of honey-mustard sauce in the center. By the time you've touched up your mascara or trimmed your cute little beard, everything is ready.

Of course, you can always eat the brats on a bun with mustard and sauerkraut or onions and peppers or whatever else you wish.

Shopping List:
6 bratwurst
3 T Dijon mustard
4 T honey
1 T mayonnaise

Mix well with a whisk and refrigerate.

Do you want another fast food dinner idea?  Roast a pork tenderloin, allow to rest for 10 minutes and slice. Serve with this sauce and steamed asparagus or green beans on the side. Delicious, fast and easy! Time to jazz things up? Put 1/8 of a stick of salted butter and 1 cup sliced almonds in a non-stick pan. Cook until butter is browned and foamy and almonds are toasty colored. Pour over the asparagus or green beans and toss.

*To give the appearance of grilled bratwurst, score each sausage diagonally before putting in the oven. Just run a very sharp knife across in a diagonal line and about an inch or so apart for the length of the sausages.


Maybe not an error. Perhaps more of a typo-type of editorial omission... Uhm... Err... Bottom line: Yesterday's post had a couple of wandering sentences. It was like an unfinished construction site, which nobody noticed, so traffic was allowed in. Not a big deal. You would have figured it out, but we erred and we've corrected and now all is deliciously in place. Phew!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

A Mere Trifle: A July Fourth Dessert

A trifle can be as simple as fruit-topped pudding or vanilla yogurt

It's nothing. A mere trifle! Well, if you're making it for dessert, even though it's relatively easy to prepare, this is serious work. But what if you're not in the mood for all of the serious preparation? Then switch over to the easy side of the dessert maker's kitchen.

The essence of a traditional trifle is: custard (or pudding), fruit, cake (sprinkled with rum or whiskey), whipped cream and toasted almonds. You layer everything in a large glass or crystal bowl, finishing it off with whipped cream and toasted almonds. Make this with instant pudding and store-bought cake the night or day before, and your life is easier on the actual holiday. If you’re a purist and have time to spare, try this traditional recipe or this one from Martha Stewart (even though they don’t use custard or almonds).

My No Recipe Recipe
Sliced fresh strawberries, peaches and blueberries
Instant vanilla pudding (prepared and cooled to set)
Pound cake, angel food cake or a jelly roll  (cut into large slices or cubes)
Whipped cream (with sugar and vanilla) or the other stuff you buy in a plastic tub
Toasted almonds

  • Combine fruit with a few tablespoons of sugar and a couple tablespoons of rum (spiced rum is especially good). Toss and set aside for about 10 minutes to give sugar time to dissolve.
  • Begin layering in a large glass or clear plastic bowl.
  • First layer, fruit. Second layer pudding. Third layer cake.
  • Sprinkle cake generously with rum.
  • Duplicate layers. Sprinkle cake with rum and any fruit juices that may be left in the bowl.
  • Top with a thick layer of whipped cream and distribute almonds evenly over that.
  • If you have unused fruit, put into a small bowl and serve on the side.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Oh, Caesar, Bring Me Your Dressing!

For years I've wanted to find the perfect (and authentic) Caesar dressing, so I developed my own. I've had it at two restaurants outside of San Francisco. I mention San Francisco because everywhere I've had a Caesar salad there, well, it's been outstanding. It's one of the easiest recipes, but you will need a food processor. A blender just won't work as well. If you have a small processor, make half of this recipe.

Caesar dressing is underwhelming to look at. It's brownish and uninspiring, but--BUT--it is quite another expression when you taste it! The salad is easy enough, but easy isn't always a simple as opening a bag of pre-washed lettuce with the cheese and croutons included. No. You buy the Romaine whole, tear off the leaves, wash and set in a colander to drain the excess water, then wrap it all up in a cloth towel and place in the refrigerator for a few hours. This brings the lettuce up a notch in the crisp and refreshing department. The croutons? Get a loaf of French or Italian bread, cut into cubes and place on a baking sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil and toss with your hands. Place on the middle rack of a 350F oven and cook until the bread cubes are lightly browned and very crisp. The cheese? Your best bet is to grab a nice chunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano and use a vegetable peeler to shave off the amount that you want. I always want a lot.


2 (2 oz) cans anchovies 
4 large cloves of garlic, peeled, smashed and chopped 
2 t. dijon mustard 
1 whole egg and one egg yolk, coddled if you wish * 
2 dashes hot sauce (I use a lot more)
juice of two lemons (1/4 cup) 
1 T. red wine vinegar 
1/2 t. Worcestershire sauce 
2/3 cups extra-virgin olive oil 
Typically, the same cheese with which you finish the salad is also added to the dressing. I don't do that. I find that what I add to the salad is more than enough.

As much Parmigiano-Regianno cheese as you wish
2 heads romaine lettuce 
croutons (oh, go on, make your own) 

Process all of the ingredients except for the oil. Once everything is in a loose paste-like consistency, slowly drizzle in about 1/4 of the oil while continuing to process. Now you can speed up from drizzling to pouring. You'll notice that the dressing has emulsified and is a bit thick. Refrigerate at once. 

To assemble the salad, tear the lettuce into a huge bowl, add the cheese, drizzle with the dressing and toss well. Serve with extra cheese and top with croutons. 

*Some recipes recommend doing this in order to ensure a bacteria-free egg. I've tried it, but cannot say that it's worth the extra effort. I've made mayonnaise and aioli and never "treated" the egg. Please use your own judgment. To coddle the eggs, drop them into a pot of boiling water for 30 seconds and remove. 

Monday, February 20, 2017

Elegant Meal & Casual Dining

When I think of an elegant meal, my mind goes directly to lobster, not because of the expense as you might imagine. For me, it's because of the subtle sweetness and delicate texture of the meat and the seasonal availability. You want lobster? You have to wait until it's lobster season. It's also because, while there aren't many steps in procuring the meat from the shell, there is a skill to adding just enough salt to the cooking water and cooking the whole lobster just long enough. Just long enough takes much effort and many failed attempts. By the time your pure and simply delicious lobster meat is on a plate, it's one of the most elegant meals you'll ever experience! Whip up a garlic-basil aioli by adding two tablespoons of chopped fresh basil to this basic recipe by Martha Stewart, or combine 1 cup Duke's Mayonnaise with a very finely chopped garlic clove and two tablespoons of finely chopped fresh basil. Either one makes an excellent flavor companion for the lobster.

The only thing that makes this elegant meal better is that you don't have to eat it in a formal environment. Dining room table, pearls and tuxedos are optional. While you may certainly use good china, linen napkins and "the good glasses" for you wine, you can take this dining experience down a notch and enjoy it all on a picnic excursion by the lake or on your patio under a brightly colored umbrella. This elegant meal may be enjoyed in the most casual manner, even going so far as to use fingers instead of forks.

And what do with the leftovers? Gather them up in a bowl, squeeze lemon juice over the top, stir in a little of the garlic-basil mayonnaise (or aioli) and a teeny bit of finely chopped celery. Now you've got a fabulous lobster roll filling! Can you say, lobster round two?

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Creamy Carrot Soup

This is a very short story about how I develop new recipes. It includes my newest recipe.

Situation: So, one day, you have a lot of carrots that you need to use before they spoil. Yes, they're good for the compost bin, but I don't usually shop for composting ingredients. I prefer, instead, to shop for dinner and lunch ingredients.

Solution: On this particular day, I had 2 lbs of carrots, some green onions (scallions), red and yellow peppers, and 2 beets. I always have onions, garlic, canned goods and an assortment of spices, so I began with what became the first step of my recipe. I peeled, cut and roasted the carrots with an onion and garlic. Next, I pureed everything and stirred in water (you can use chicken stock) and a few spices. Because my mind had wandered to Asian-inspired spices, I also used sesame oil and a can of coconut milk. After tasting and adjusting for salt, I realized that the soup was lacking balance and excitement, so I added lime juice for brightness, a tiny bit of sugar and a little chili-garlic paste.

Now we're talking!

Savoring: The only thing I needed was a garnish. Send in the chopped peppers and scallions and the julienned beets. What a great color contrast! An orange canvas with red and yellow and green bits and shreds of ruby red in the center. Creamy Carrot Soup--good looking and delicious!

Here We Go:
2 lbs carrots, peeled and cut into equal pieces (about an inch or so)
1 medium sweet onion, peeled and cut into large chunks
3 large cloves garlic (skin on)
salt & pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (I just drizzle a generous amount over everything)

Roast everything at 400F for about 45 minutes. Toss once during roasting to ensure even caramelization (the little burned looking bits). Remove from oven and allow to cool. Throw everything into a pot and puree with a hand/immersion blender. (If you only have a traditional blender, wait until everything has cooled, pour it all into the jar along with half of the water or chicken stock listed below. Blend, then pour into a pot.)

Stir in the following with a slotted spoon or a whisk:
3 t. chili-garlic paste
1/8 c. sugar
2 t. curry powder
1/4 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. cumin
1/4 t. turmeric
1/4 t. ginger powder
4 c. water or chicken stock
1 (19 oz) can coconut milk
Juice of 1 lime

Stir over medium-high heat until everything is heated through thoroughly. Ladle into bowls and garnish with a mix of red and orange finely chopped peppers and sliced scallions. Dress the center of each bowl with a large pinch of raw julienned beets.

I peel the beets, hold from the stalk end and shave on a mandoline. Then I gather a few slices and slice across into long, thin strips.