Saturday, December 28, 2013

Apple Mashed Potatoes with Caramelized Onion Cider Gravy

Apples and apple cider add a wonderful sweetness to simple mashed potatoes.  Wonderful with a pork roast or chops!

Serves 4 to 6

For the potatoes

4  1/2 cups peeled and cubed Yukon Gold potatoes( one inch cubes)
1 large granny Smith apple, peeled cored and cut into one inch cubes
1 cup apple cider
1/2 cup half and half
3 Tbl butter
5 or 6 gratings nutmeg
Salt and white pepper to taste

Place the cubed apple and potatoes in a 4 quart pot, cover with water and add the cup of apple cider. Bring to a boil and simmer until the potatoes are fork tender.
Drain the apples and potatoes and then start mashing or ricing.  Add the butter and half and half and keep mashing until the mixture is smooth. Stir in the nutmeg and add salt and white pepper to taste.

For the gravy

3 Tbl butter
1 large sweet onion, quartered and then thinly sliced
1 tsp granulated sugar
2 sprigs fresh thyme
3 Tbl all purpose flour
1 cup apple cider
1 cup chicken broth
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

In a large saute pan, melt the butter and add the sliced onions, sugar and thyme. saute on low heat until the onions turn golden.  This might take about 20 minutes.  Stir the mixture around a bit while you do this.
After the onions have caramelized, fish out the thyme sprigs and stir in the flour.  Continue to saute for another minute or to to incorporate the flour.
Stir in the cider, chicken broth, salt and pepper.  Bring up to a simmer and simmer until thickened. Serve the gravy over the apple mashed potatoes.

Friday, December 20, 2013

A Christmas Gift from Louisiana!

The doorbell rang the other day...I answered and a FedEx driver was standing there with a huge package.  She was smiling from ear to ear and when I told her it must be something I ordered for Christmas she pointed to the return address on the box and said "This looks like food...let me help you get it in the house"  I looked down and saw that the package was from Tony's Seafood in Baton Rouge and knew immediately that my brother had sent this. He works for Tony's which is a huge retail/wholesale seafood operation in the South.
We got the package in the house and Tom, Matt and I began to make our way through it.  Inside we found pork boudin, crawfish boudin, pickled quail eggs, a crawfish pie,  Louisiana Fish Fry spices and crab boils and last but not least...a 14 pound turducken! A turducken is a boned turkey stuffed with a duck and then stuffed with a chicken . Everything was frozen but in perfect condition!
We took everything to the freezer and decided that the turducken will probably be saved for Dad and Margie's upcoming birthday, but if nothing else, we'll all sample the crawfish pie on Christmas Day.

Thanks so much Tom!!


Sunday, December 8, 2013

Whipped Artichoke Spread

I was looking through the latest Zingerman's catalog (I love Zingermans!) and found a product for artichoke cream described as whipped with spices and vinegar.  I thought it sounded like something I'd like to try but when I went to order they were out.  I was determined to have some artichoke "cream" and checked the pantry and found 2 cans of artichoke hearts packed in water.  And so I made this spread....good on crackers, vegetables, pita chips and even as a spread for sandwiches. A little tart but if you like artichokes you may want to give it a try!

Makes over 2 cups

Two 14.5 ounce cans artichoke hearts packed in water
2 roasted garlic cloves
Juice of one small lemon (Meyer lemon is especially good)
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/4 to 1/2 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Drain and rinse the artichokes and then place them in the bowl of a food processor along with the garlic, lemon juice, salt, white pepper and 1/4 cup of the bread crumbs.
Start processing while drizzling in the oil.  Process until fluffy and add a little more bread crumb if you'd like the spread a little sturdier. Place in a bowl, cover and refrigerate for several hours to let the flavors marry.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Mashed potato casserole , cranberry sauce and cuke salad are made...I'm working on sweet potatoes as we speak...still left - dressing, pepper roasting, cheese cutting and I can't even remember what else.  Thankfully, many are bringing a dish for our Thanksgiving celebration.  Seventeen of us this year...only one missing is my brother whose work makes it almost impossible to get time off.  It will be hectic but wonderful!

Wishing all of you a wonderful holiday...and as my brother always says:  DON'T MESS WITH THE COOK!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Panko Crusted Chicken with Chanterelle-Gruyere Sauce

I found these gorgeous golden trumpet like mushrooms at Costco (of all places!) for $8.99 per pound which is very reasonable for this hard to find (at least around here) exotic.  I decided to use them in a lightly cheesy cream sauce and serve the sauce over chicken.  Here's what I did:

Makes 4 servings

 For the chicken:
4 six to eight ounce boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded a bit to even
1 cup flour
2 eggs lightly beaten with a few tablespoons water
About 2 cups panko crumbs
salt and pepper
Vegetable oil for pan frying

Begin by heating enough oil in a large skillet to come up about a half an inch.  Get the oil nice and hot while you're breading the chicken.
Season the chicken with salt and pepper.  Set up a breading station and dredge the chicken first in the flour, then the beaten egg and last the panko.
Brown the chicken until golden and then place them in a shallow baking dish. Bake the chicken in a 350F oven for 15 to 20 minutes.

For the sauce:
2 Tbl butter
2 Tbl extra virgin olive oil
1 medium shallot, minced
A pinch of thyme
1 pound Chanterelle mushrooms (or substitute Shitakes)cut in good size chunks
1 tsp instant flour (Wondra) plus more if needed
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper 
1/4 cup dry white wine
1  1/2 to 2 cups half and half
2 ounces shredded Gruyere cheese

In a large saute pan, heat the oil and butter, add the shallots and saute until the shallots soften. Add the mushrooms and thyme and continue to saute until the mushrooms give off their liquid.  Continue to saute to let the liquid evaporate. Stir in the instant flour.
Add the salt, pepper and wine.  Simmer for about a minute.
Stir in 1  1/2 cups of the half and half, bring up to a simmer and cook to thicken the sauce. If you like a thinner sauce add that extra 1/2 cup of half and half now. Simmer until the sauce lightly coats the back of a spoon. 
Turn off the heat and stir in the cheese.
Ladle a little sauce over the chicken and enjoy!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Kerby Update

Here he is in all his glory....all 25.6 pounds of him.  As you can see he's too big to get through the fence...he's poddy trained...he can shake hands...he will lie down for a treat.....BUT he still likes to chew and steal pillows!   But he's cute and we know he'll be a GOOD boy soon!!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

I'm a Finalist!!!!!!

Just found out that I'm a finalist in Whole Foods Market Cooking Contest for "Your Best Stovetop Chicken Recipe"!
Please go here to vote for "My Chicken Cacciatore" before noon tomorrow: 

Balkan Potato, Paprika and Green Bean Stew

This recipe brings many memories of my childhood...stews with lots of paprika simmering on the stove, sometimes with lamb, sometimes with pork....but always with paprika and rice or potatoes.  This stew stands alone but feel free to ladle it over braised lamb or pork for a more substantial meal.

Makes about 4 servings

2 Tbl extra virgin olive oil
1 large leek (white and pale green part only), diced
8 large cloves garlic, halved
2 Tbl sweet Hungarian paprika
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
One 14.5 ounce can plum tomatoes crushed a bit with your clean hands
2 cups chicken broth
3/4 pound of fresh young green beans, trimmed and halved
5 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, quartered
1 Tbl minced fresh dill plus more for garnish

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or soup pot, add the diced leek and saute until softened.  Add the garlic halves, salt, pepper and paprika and continue to saute for a minute more.
Stir in the tomatoes, chicken broth and green beans, bring up to a boil and then down to a slow simmer and simmer, partially covered for about 30 minutes until the green beans are soft.  Give everything a stir a couple of times while simmering.
Add the potatoes, bring back up to a simmer and continue to simmer for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender.
Off the heat, stir in the tablespoon of dill.  Serve in bowls, garnish with a few dill sprigs.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Chicken Meatball and Broccoli Pasta Bowl

I love pasta and broccoli and when you throw in a little Italian sausage, I'm in heaven!  You've seen the quick Italian flavored turkey sausage I've made for spaghetti and meatballs and so I thought..why not use ground chicken for this one.  Use the crush red pepper sparingly if you're not a heat freak!

Make about 4 servings

For the meatballs:
1 pound ground chicken
1 to 2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 tsp granulated garlic
1  1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp granulated sugar
2 tsp crushed fennel seeds
1 egg
1 cup unseasoned panko crumbs
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Combine all the ingredients except the oil thoroughly in a mixing bowl.  Cover and refrigerate the mixture for 2 to 4 hours.
After refrigeration roll the mixture into smallish ( 1 1/2 inch) meatballs.  Heat the oil in a very large skillet and brown the meatballs on all sides in batches.  Remove the meatballs to paper toweling. Leave the drippings in the skillet.

Putting it all together:
2 Tbl extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves minced garlic
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 cups chicken broth
10 ounces penne pasta
4 to 5 heaping cups of small fresh broccoli florets
The previously cooked meatballs
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated parmesan for garnish

Add the 2 Tbl of oil to the reserved skillet and saute the garlic and red pepper for about a minute until fragrant.
Add the meatballs and one cup of the chicken broth.  Turn off the heat while you prepare the pasta and broccoli.
Begin cooking the penne in a large pot per package instructions but add the other cup of chicken broth to the water.  The penne takes 10 to 11 minutes to cook.  At about the 8 minute mark add the broccoli florets to the cooking pasta and cook about 3 minutes more.  While the pasta is cooking start heating the meatballs in the skillet over medium heat.
Drain the pasta and broccoli, reserving a cup or two of the pasta liquid and stir the mixture into the skillet of meatballs.  Add some of the pasta liquid if needed to loosen everything up.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and garnish with parmesan.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Creamy Quinoa Onion Soup

I like using vegetables and grains as soup thickeners and often use rice, potatoes and carrots to make creamy soups without cream.  This time I made a creamy onion soup using quinoa as the thickener.  It's rich, filling and satisfying...and good for you too!

Makes about 2 quarts

1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
2 Tbl butter
2 Tbl olive oil
2 medium sweet onions
2 medium leeks (white and pale green parts only)
1 large clove garlic
1 tsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp aleppo pepper (optional)
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 cups chicken broth (plus more if you want a thinner soup)
2 cups beef broth
Salt and pepper for seasoning
Thinly sliced green onion and crumbled bacon for garnish

Cook the quinoa per package instructions.  Normally you rinse the grain and combine it with 2 cups water, bring to a boil and then gently simmer, covered, for 12 to 15 minutes until the liquid is absorbed.  Set aside.
Slice the onions and leeks thinly and mince the garlic clove.  In a 4 quart soup pot melt the butter and oil and add the onions, leeks, garlic, sugar and aleppo pepper.  Gently saute until everything softens but doesn't brown.  This might take about 20 minutes.
Add the wine, chicken and beef broth and bring the soup to a boil.  Add the cooked quinoa and then simmer the soup for about 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes, cool the soup a bit and then in batches, puree the soup until very creamy.  return the soup to a clean pot and then re warm and taste for seasoning.
To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with some green onion and bacon.
NOTE:  If you feel the soup is thicker than you like, thin it a bit by whisking in a little more chicken broth after pureeing.

Friday, October 18, 2013

White Chocolate Toffee Chip Frosting

Here's a nice frosting for your cupcakes...I got the idea after I saw a recipe for "2 Ingredient White Chocolate Buttercream" on the Cookies & Cups blog.  Imagine...white chocolate chips and butter turn into a rich, decadent icing!  I added ricotta, vanilla and English toffee bits for this one.

Makes about 3 cups

1 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 pound salted butter (2 sticks)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
3/4 cup English toffee bits

In a medium sauce pan melt the butter and white chocolate chips together over low heat until everything is totally melted.  Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight until the mixture is very firm.
Take the bowl out of the fridge and let sit on the counter until it softens up.  This may take a number of hours.
When softened begin beating with an electric mixer.  After a few minutes add the vanilla and ricotta and continue beating until fluffy.  Stir in the toffee bits and frost away!


Saturday, October 5, 2013

Horseradish Buttered Mushroom Toasts

This week Food52 is sponsoring Your Most Impressive Dinner Party Side  Recipe contest.  Here is my latest entry: 

Great with a slice of roast beef!!!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Asian Pear and Burrata Salad with a Lemongrass Glaze

This weeks' contest theme at Whole Foods Market Cooking is lemongrass.  I made a salad of Asian pears, spinach, burrata cheese with a lemongrass syrupy glaze.  Made for a wonderful lunch for the two of us.

Here's the link to the recipe: 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Jammin' Jambalaya Soup

Spicy and filling, this soup makes a satisfying meal fit for a tailgate or just game watching!

Makes about 5 quarts

2 Tbl vegetable oil
1 pound andouille  or another spicy smoked sausage
5 boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 large onion, diced
1 medium green bell pepper, diced
2 medium stalks celery, diced
2 cloves minced garlic
2 tsp Hungarian paprika
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves
1  14 to 15 ounce can plum tomatoes
8 cups chicken broth
3 cups cooked white rice
3/4 pound peeled and deveined shrimp
Cayenne pepper to taste

Cut the sausage into a 3/4 inch dice.  Remove any excess fat from the chicken thighs and then dice them about the same size as the sausage.
Heat the oil in a 6 quart soup pot (or larger) and add the diced sausage.  Once the sausage starts to render some fat, add the diced chicken and saute until the chicken loses some of its "rawness".
Add the onion, bell pepper, celery, garlic, paprika, basil, oregano and thyme and continue to saute until the vegetables soften.
With clean hands, crush the tomatoes and add them to the pot.  Give it a stir and bring to a simmer.
Add the chicken broth and bring the soup up to a boil and then down to a simmer for about 10 minutes.
Stir in the cooked rice and then taste the soup.  This is where you'll decide if you want to add a little cayenne pepper.  My sausage was very spicy so I added less than 1/4 teaspoon.  It's up to you.
Bring the soup back up to a simmer, add the shrimp, put a lid on the pot and turn the heat off.  The shrimp will cook within a couple of minutes.  if you're making the soup early in the day, add the shrimp after re heating.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Meet the New Guy!!

Some of you may know that we lost our beloved Jake in May...we miss him terribly, but this week we adopted this little guy.  He's about 9 weeks now and weighs 7 pounds.  We think he's a lab/retriever mix and he loves to eat and chew on everything.  He won't be able to be a taste tester for a while but when he is I'm sure he'll enjoy everything.  Oh....we think we're naming him Kerby!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Spicy Sesame Chicken Kebabs

The other night was a grilling night and we decided to do some chicken kebabs.  I marinated the chicken in a spicy sesame marinade and then threaded the pieces on skewers and grilled them.  We served them over sweetened Jasmine rice (just add a little sugar to the cooking water).

1 Tbl freshly grated ginger
2 garlic cloves grated on a micro plane
2 Tbl vegetable oil
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
4 Tbl honey
1 Tbl sesame oil
1 Tbl granulated sugar
1 Tbl sambal oelek (or other spicy chili sauce)
1 tsp toasted sesame seeds
4  6 to 8 ounce boneless skinless chicken breasts
4 wooden skewers (about 12 inches long) which you've soaked in water for at least 30 minutes
Sliced green onion for garnish (optional)

Whisk together all ingredients except the chicken and set aside.  Cut the chicken into cubes about 1  1/2 inches.  Place the chicken pieces in a zippered freezer bag and pour in the marinade.  Marinade in the fridge for at least an hour or two.
When ready to grill, thread the chicken pieces on to the skewers. Pour the marinade into a small sauce pan and boil it for about 4 or 5 minutes.
Grill, brushing with the marinade until done.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Home Grown Potatoes

Yes...we grew potatoes in garbage bags this year.  Yesterday we dug into the first bag (once the foliage turned brown) and ended up with about 15 very small redskins, basically enough for one meal. See them in the first photo right out of the ground and in the second, cleaned up a bit.  I cut the larger ones so that all of them were pretty uniform in size and then steamed them until fork tender.  Once steamed, I cooked up a few pieces of bacon and then left the drippings in the pan, sauteed the potatoes adding salt and pepper and then sprinkled them with crumbled bacon and sliced green onions(also from the garden). A yummy experiment!!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Going Greek

We had the Greek appetizer dinner out on our new deck for dinner the other night.....calamari, tarama, feta, olives, cucumbers, garden tomatoes, sausage and bread.  It was wonderful!  But then I started missing my favorite Greek restaurant around here,  The New Hellas, which closed a few years ago.  I've heard rumor that another might open in the suburbs soon but it can never be the same without Gus Antoine, the owner, who passed away about a year ago.

We have found a new Greek restaurant less than a mile away from our house, however.  It's called Muses Taverna and sits in a strip mall at Big Beaver and John R in Troy. Not the same ambiance as Hellas, but the food is wonderful!

Here's a link to their website: 

If you're in the area give it a try.


Friday, August 30, 2013

Roasted Tomato and Basil Quinotto

I'm harvesting beautiful grape and cherry tomatoes right now and thought about a risotto like dish using quinoa.  Add some basil and a little cheese and you've got "Quinotto"!

Serves 3 or 4

For the roasted tomatoes and garlic:

2 cups grape or small cherry tomatoes (or a combination of both)
2 large cloves garlic left in their skins
4 Tbl olive oil
Salt and pepper

Place the tomatoes and garlic cloves in a small roasting pan and add the oil and a little salt and pepper.  Roll everything around to coat and then roast in a 400F oven for 15 to 20 minutes until the tomatoes begin to shrivel a bit.  Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

For the quinotto:

1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained well
3 Tbl butter
The previously roasted garlic cloves
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 cups warm chicken broth (I think vegetable broth would also work)
The roasted tomatoes
1/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
Salt and pepper to taste

Squeeze the garlic from their skins and then mash and chop it.
Melt the butter in a medium sauce pan and then add the quinoa and garlic and stir to coat all the grains.
Over medium heat, add the wine and cook while stirring frequently until the wine is absorbed into the quinoa.
Now add a ladle of chicken broth and stir while cooking until the broth absorbs into the quinoa.  keep repeating until the quinoa is cooked (You may not need all of the broth) This may take about 30 minutes.  You want the mix to be loose and not dry.
Gently stir in the cheese, tomatoes and basil.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.
NOTE TO COOK: You can stir in a bit of cream at the end for a creamier version...I'd say about 1/4 cup.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Dilled Zucchini Soup for All Seasons

A lot of zucchini coming out of the garden right now and I'm thinking of all sorts of ways to prepare it.  Cooler nights this week so soup was in order.  I took one of those zucchini and added potatoes, dill and chicken broth and made this soup.  The next day I tasted the leftovers chilled and it was just as good!  Truly a soup for all seasons!!

Makes about 2 quarts

2 Tbl butter
2 Tbl extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
4 medium red skin potatoes, peeled and cubed (about 4 cups) or more:see note below
1 medium zucchini grated on the large holes of a box grater (about 3 cups)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
3 Tbl minced fresh dill or 1 Tbl dried
6 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup sour cream
Thinly sliced green onion for garnish(optional) if serving warm
Finely diced cucumber for garnish (optional) if serving chilled

In a 4 quart soup pot, melt the butter along with the olive oil, add the diced onion and saute until the onion softens bu doesn't brown.
Add the diced potatoes, shredded zucchini, salt, pepper and dill and continue to saute while stirring for 3 or 4 more minutes.
Add the chicken broth, bring up to a boil and then simmer for about 20 minutes until the potatoes are fork tender.
Cool the soup a bit and then puree with an immersion blender or blend in batches in a regular blender.  To serve warm, bring the soup just barely to a boil and whisk in the sour cream.  garnish each bowl with green onion if desired.  To serve cold, after whisking in the sour cream, cool the soup to room temperature and then chill in the fridge for several hours (or overnight) before serving and garnish with cucumber.
NOTE:  For a thicker soup add a few more potatoes to the mix.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Roasted Tomato, Whipped Burrata and Basil Oil Soup

Yes   this is a simple roasted tomato soup, but what puts it over the top is a dollop of whipped burrata cheese and a drizzle of basil oil in the finish.  Summertime...Summertime!

Makes 1 1/2 to 2 quarts

 For the soup:
2 pounds Roma tomatoes
2 Tbl extra virgin olive oil
A sprinkling of sea salt and pepper
4 Tbl butter
2 large shallots
2 large cloves garlic
2 Tbl AP flour
5 cups rich chicken broth
2 large basil leaves
Additional salt and pepper to taste

Halve the tomatoes lengthwise and seed them.  Place the halves, cut side up, on a parchment or Silpat lined rimmed baking sheet.  Drizzle them with the 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle a little salt and pepper over.  Roast in a 350F oven for one hour.  Remove from the oven and set aside.
Finely dice the shallots and garlic.  In a 4 quart soup pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter, add the diced garlic and shallots and saute until they soften up and become very fragrant.  Stir in the 2 tablespoons of flour and then saute for another minute or two.
Add the chicken broth and roasted tomatoes to the pot, bring up to the boil and then simmer the mixture for 20 minutes.
Let the soup cool a bit and then, in batches, puree the soup in a blender until quite smooth.  During one of those batches, add the 2 basil leaves so they get pureed also. can certainly strain the soup into a clean pot, but I don't mind the few stray bits of tomato that might remain, so I leave it a little "rustic".  In any event, return the pureed soup to a clean pot.

For the burrata, basil oil and putting it all together:

1 cup fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1 eight ounce ball of fresh burrata cheese
The roasted tomato soup

Place the basil leaves, olive oil and salt in a blender and then blend until the mixture gets as smooth as you can get it.  Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer or cheese cloth, pressing on the solids with the back of a spoon to extract all of the oil.  Set aside.
Break up the ball of burrata and place in a mini food processor and process until light and fluffy.
Gently reheat the soup, ladle into serving bowls and top each with a dollop of whipped burrata and a drizzle of the basil oil.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Cucumbers and Chickpeas with a Chili-Lime Vinaigrette

We're picking one or two long English cucumbers everyday right many to keep up with.  Some sort of cucumber dish is on the menu each night and this was one of them.  Extremely easy and refreshing!

Makes about 4 cups

1 large clove garlic, mashed or put through a garlic press
1 tsp lime zest
Juice of one large lime
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ancho chili powder
4 Tbl honey
3 Tbl grapeseed oil(or another neutral oil)
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups cooked chickpeas (or in a pinch, one 15 ounce can, rinsed and drained)
1 nice size English cucumber, cut into a small dice
Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk together the garlic, zest, lime juice, cumin, chili powder, honey, oil and 1/4 tsp salt.  Set aside.
Combine the cucumbers and chickpeas, pour the dressing over, taste for salt and pepper if needed and let marinate in the fridge for an hour or two before serving.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Classic Shopska Salata

I first had this salad at the Hotel Sofia in Sofia, Bulgaria a long, long time ago when Bulgaria was still under Communist rule and no one in the country could (or would) give an American change when purchasing any sort of item.  You had to make sure that you carried around small bills and a lot of coin in order to not get stiffed.  This salad, however, certainly made the trip worthwhile.  Very simple with fresh ingredients, it's a staple in Bulgaria and surrounding regions.  Similar to Horiatiki, it distinguishes itself with a shower of finely crumbled Bulgarian feta instead of slices or cubes.

Makes about 4 side servings

1 long thin English cucumber
1/2 of a large red onion
1/2 of a large green bell pepper
2 large, very ripe plum tomatoes
1/2 cup kalamata olives
2 Tbl red wine vinegar
4 Tbl extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup finely crumbled Bulgarian feta cheese

Half peel the cucumber by paring every 1/4 inch or so to create a striped pattern and then slice into 1/2 inch rounds.  Toss them into a medium bowl.
Chop the onion and bell pepper into a 1/2 inch dice and add them to the bowl along with the olives and parsley.
Whisk the oil and vinegar together and add it to the mix. Toss the vegetables until they are coated with the dressing.  Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
Now place the salad into an appropriate size serving bowl and shower the top with the feta.  Chill before serving.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Apricot Phyllo Crisp

A number of years ago I caught an episode of " Everyday Food" where the host was making a spinach pie with a "tangled" phyllo crust on top.  What a terrific idea I thought, for those of us who are "phyllo challenged".  This week I wanted to make an apricot cobbler type dish and decided that this tangled topping would make and excellent Crisp.

Makes one 10 inch round baking dish

 For the apricots:
3/4 cups sliced almonds
3 Tbl butter
3 Tbl honey
4 Tbl granulated sugar
2 to 2  1/2 pounds apricots, pitted and sliced into 1/3 inch wedges
1 Tbl cornstarch
1 tsp almond extract

Place the sliced almonds in a large dry saute pan and over medium heat gently toast them. Remove from pan.
In the same pan melt the butter along with the honey and sugar.  Add all but 3 Tbl of the toasted almonds (reserved almonds will be for sprinkling over the finished Crisp)
Gently stir in the sliced apricots and sprinkle the cornstarch over again gently stirring over the heat for about one minute.  Off the heat stir in the almond extract and pour the mixture into a 10x10 inch baking pan or a 10 inch round baking dish with sides about 2 inches.

For the crisp phyllo topping:

8 ounces phyllo dough, thawed overnight in the fridge if purchased frozen.
4 Tbl butter, melted
2 Tbl granulated sugar
The prepared apricot mixture
Th 3 Tbl of reserved almonds
Confectioners sugar for dusting (optional)

Pre heat your oven to 350F.  open your package of phyllo but don't unroll it.  Lay the roll on a cutting board and with a sharp knife cut the roll in 1/2 inch pieces.
Toss the pieces of phyllo around to open the rolls and then pour the butter over and sprinkle with the sugar. Toss again so that the phyllo is somewhat all coated with butter and sugar.
Top the prepared apricot mixture with the tangled phyllo and bake for 30 to 35 minutes until the top is lightly browned and the apricots are bubbly.  Out of the oven, sprinkle with the remaining almonds.  Let rest about 10 minutes before serving. Dust each serving with confectioners sugar if desired.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Sweet Tomato and Peach Cobbler

Ever since I made a tomato tart tatin from Bon Appetit"s August 2010 issue I've been totally addicted to tomatoes sauteed in butter and sugar.  They make a great ice cream topping, pound cake topping and are even lovely spread on toast.  I added this sweet goodness to peaches, and with a little cinnamon and cayenne arrived at this cobbler.

Makes one 9x13 inch cobbler

For the tomatoes and peaches:

8 large plum tomatoes
6 large yellow peaches
3 Tbl butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbl plus 1 tsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cayenne pepper

Peel the tomatoes and peaches by marking an "X" on the bottom of each and plunging into boiling water for about 30 seconds.  Once a bit cool, the skins should peel right off.
Halve the tomatoes lengthwise and scoop out the core and seeds with a small spoon.  Slice each half in half again and set the slices on paper toweling to drain.
Spread the butter in a large saute pan and sprinkle with the sugar.  Add the tomatoes in one layer and over medium heat cook the tomatoes for 20 to 30 minutes until the syrup created becomes amber like in color.
Slice the peaches into wedges about 1/3 inch thick and add them to the pan of tomatoes.
Combine the cornstarch, cinnamon and cayenne and gently stir into the mixture.  Transfer the mixture to a 9x13 inch baking pan.

For the biscuit topping:

1  1/3 cups AP flour
3 Tbl granulated sugar plus one extra Tbl for sprinkling
1  1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
2/3 cup buttermilk
The tomato-peach mixture

Pre heat your oven to 400F.  In a medium mixing bowl whisk the flour, 3 Tbl sugar, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon together.
Cut the butter into small pieces and with a fork, work the butter into the flour mixture until the mixture gets crumbly.  Pour in the buttermilk and combine with a fork until everything comes together.
Drop spoonfuls of the batter over the top of the tomato-peach mixture.  Sprinkle the top with the remaining tablespoon of sugar and bake for 30 to 40 minutes until the top browns a bit and the fruit gets bubbly.  let rest for about 20 minutes before serving.  Ice cream or whipped cream are optional but darn good!!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Summer Savory Mushroom Pate

I grow many herbs in pots all around the garden - basil, oregano, marjoram, thyme, rosemary, mint...but one of my favorites is summer savory, an annul related to its perennial counterpart, winter savory.  Summer savory is not as harsh as the winter variety and its uses are common in beans, sausage and stuffings.  Bulgarians call it chubritza, a must in bean soup.  When dried, chubritza will sit on the Bulgarian table mixed with salt and paprika as a seasoning for all kinds of dishes.  Here I combine fresh summer savory with mushrooms and ricotta for a lovely summer pate.

Makes about 1  1/2 cups

3 Tbl unsalted butter
4 ounces shitake mushrooms
8 ounces cremini mushrooms
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1  1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 Tbl minced summer savory leaves

Remove the stems from the mushrooms and finely dice the caps.  Melt the butter in a large saute pan and add the diced mushrooms.  Saute the mushrooms for about 3 minutes on high heat and then add the garlic.  Continue to saute until the mushrooms brown a bit and most of the liquid has evaporated.  Let cool.
In the bowl of a food processor add the mushroom mixture along with the rest of the ingredients and process until almost smooth.  Refrigerate for a couple of hours before serving with crackers or little toasts.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Creamy Rosemary Scented Beans and Tomatoes

White beans and tomatoes meet a little rosemary for a nice side for grilled or roasted meat, fowl or fish.

Makes 4 to 6 side servings

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 dry pint grape tomatoes
2 three inch sprigs fresh rosemary
6 large cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 tsp minced fresh rosemary leaves
3 cups cooked white beans ( or two 15.5 cans drained and rinsed)
1/4 cup minced flat leaf parsley
Additional s & p if needed

In a large saute pan, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the tomatoes and sprigs of rosemary and saute until the tomatoes soften and start to break down. Help them along with the back of a wooden spoon. (This might take up to 10 minutes-take your time)
Once the tomatoes break down add the minced garlic and continue to saute until the garlic softens and becomes very fragrant.
Remove the sprigs of rosemary from the pan and stir in the salt, pepper and minced rosemary.  Stir in the beans and heat until hot, stirring all the way.  The beans will soften a bit and get a little creamy.  Taste for adjusting salt and pepper.
Stir in the minced parsley and serve.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Lemon Thyme and Oregano Wings

A different twist on fried can do these in the oven or grill them!

3 pounds chicken wing sections
1/3 cup olive oil
2 Tbl mayo
4 cloves minced garlic
2 Tbl fresh lemon thyme or regular thyme leaves, minced
2 Tbl fresh oregano leaves, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 Tbl fresh lemon juice

Combine all ingredients except the wings in a mixing bowl.  Add the wings and toss to coat thoroughly.  Place the wings with the marinade in a large zip lock freezer bag and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, turning the bag occasionally.

When ready to cook pre  heat your oven to 400F.  Place the wings on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, turning them about halfway through the cooking time.  Turn the oven on to broil and run the wings under the broiler for a few minutes to crisp up.  Alternatively, grill them over medium heat, turning frequently until they are browned up a bit and cooked through.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Sweet Corn, Tomato and Zucchini Salad

Armed with a couple of ears of corn, a few grape tomatoes and a lone zucchini, I decided to dress this little salad with honey, lime and mint.  Totally refreshing!

Serves 2 to 3

1 small zucchini
1 tsp salt
2 ears raw corn
1  1/2 cups grape tomatoes
2 Tbl honey
1 Tbl extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbl fresh lime juice
2 large mint leaves
Salt and pepper to taste

Trim the ends of the zucchini and dice into 1/4 inch pieces.  Toss with the teaspoon of salt and then place the mixture in a colander to drain for about 45 minutes.  After that time, rinse thoroughly and drain well.
Slice the kernels of the ears of corn.  I like to do this in a large mixing bowl to avoid the kernels flying all over.
Slice the grape tomatoes in half and then combine them with the zucchini and corn.
In a small bowl, whisk the oil, honey and lime juice together and then pour over the salad and toss.
Slice the mint leaves thinly, stir into the salad and then season with salt and pepper.  Chill before serving.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Dream Cruise Sliders

Less than 2 months til the Woodward Dream Cruise!  Make these little Slim Jim like sliders as you cruise or gaze!

Makes 12 sliders

1/2 cup roughly chopped onion
3/4 cup roughly chopped Kosher dill pickles
1 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbl ketchup
3 Tbl prepared horseradish
12 thin slices smoked deli ham
6 thin slices deli Swiss cheese
12 slider buns or small dinner rolls
12 thin slices tomato (about the same size in diameter as the buns)
Shredded romaine lettuce

In a mini food processor, process the onion and pickle until a little chunky but slushy.  Combine this mixture in a smallish mixing bowl with the mayo, ketchup and horseradish. Refrigerate a couple of hours before assembling your sliders.
For each slider, spread the cut sides of the bun with the sauce.  Lay some of the shredded lettuce over the bottom and then fold a slice of ham to fit over.  Add a half slice of the cheese over the ham, cutting to fit, and top with a tomato slice.  Place the top half of the bun over.  Repeat for the rest of the sliders.  Wrap them in paper, toss into the cooler and be on your merry way!!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Creamy Avocado and Crab Pasta

A great pasta for a warm day, this one can be prepped ahead of time...just the pasta needs cooking just prior to serving.

Makes 4 servings

1 small tomato
1/4 cup softened cream cheese
1 garlic clove
1/2 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
8 large basil leaves, torn
1 medium avocado
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp salt
A few tablespoons of water on the ready
8 ounces fresh pasteurized blue crab meat (lump or back fin)
12 ounces dry spaghetti or linguine
4 single teaspoons white truffle oil or extra virgin olive oil
S&P to taste

Slice the tomato in half and then remove the seeds and pulp.  Lay each half, cut side down, on paper toweling to drain a bit and then dice finely.
In a blender or mini food processor, process the cream cheese, garlic, parsley and basil to get everything started.
Add the avocado meat, lemon juice and salt and continue to process until smooth.You may need to add some water at this point.  Place the mixture in a bowl and gently stir in the crab meat.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap with the wrap actually laying on the mixture.  At this point you can refrigerate until ready to eat...just bring it back to room temperature first.
Cook the pasta per package instructions, drain and place in a large bowl. (Save a little of the pasta water for loosening up the sauce if need be).
Fold in the avocado-crab mixture until the pasta is thoroughly coated.  taste and adjust for seasoning.
Divide the pasta among 4 bowls or serving plates.  Drizzle each with the teaspoon of truffle or olive oil and garnish with the finely diced tomato.Enjoy!!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Basil Scented Spinach and Couscous

This is the side we had last night with Greek grilled lamb chops...I think if you add some cheese like feta, it would make a lovely lunch.

Makes 3 to 4 side servings

1 Tbl olive oil
1 medium leek (white and pale green part) diced
1 clove minced garlic
1 cup Israeli (pearl) couscous
1  1/2 cups chicken broth (plus more if needed)
1 medium tomato, seeded and cut into a small dice
2 to 3 large handfuls of baby spinach leaves, chopped
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves thinly sliced
S & P to taste

Heat the oil in a medium sauce pan and add the leek and garlic.  saute gently until the vegetables soften and become fragrant.
Add the couscous and the chicken broth, bring up to a boil and then down to a gentle simmer.  Cover and let simmer 8 to 10 minutes.
Stir in the diced tomato and spinach and while on the heat stir until the spinach wilts.  If you feel you need a little more broth, now is the time to add it.
Stir in the basil and season with salt and pepper.  Enjoy!