Monday, December 10, 2007


Sometimes you just need a steak. I picked up a beautiful ribeye at the grocery store and decided to keep it simple. I was lucky enough to snag some chanterelle and baby shitake mushrooms at the farmers market for a steal, and what better side dish for a steak than some really decadent mashed potatoes.

The steak: generously salt and peppered and pan seared in a screaming hot pan then finished up in the oven until medium rare. Let the steak rest on a cutting board for 5 minutes before slicing.

The taters: Slice in half some baby yukon gold potatoes and boil until tender. Drain the potatoes and throw them back in the hot pot for a minute to get the moisture off. Put the potatoes in the kitchen aid mixer with a paddle attachment with a big ol lump of butter, salt and pepper, some warm half and half and a hunk of goat cheese.

The shrooms: Clean and slice the mushrooms, finely slice up a shallot or 2. In a hot skillet with some butter and olive oil throw in the mushrooms and shallots. DO NOT put any salt in there yet. When the shallots are soft and the mushrooms have browned a bit season away- salt, pepper, fresh thyme. Add in a few squirts of chicken broth and a few spoonfuls of creme fraiche.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The reward

This weekend we did a whole bunch of projects around the house to prepare for some holiday guests. To show my appreciation to my husband- who busted his butt, and is a real meat and potatoes kind of guy- I decided to make this special dinner. Pan seared rack of lamb, potato gratin with fennel and onions, roasted baby golden beets and sauteed beet greens.

The gratin was a bit of work but worth it. The rest of the meal was a snap to prepare.

Beets: Cut the greens off, scrub them clean, wrap them in an envelope of aluminum foil, put foil packet on a cookie sheet and put in a 400 oven. Little beets (pingpong ball size) take around 30 minutes, big ones (tennis ball size) take around an hour. Open the packet (carefully- steam will come out) and stab a beet with a knife- if it slides through easily, they are done. Leave the packet open and let things cool a bit. The skins will rub right off with your fingers- no peelers or knives needed.

Although I happen to think the beets are delicious just like that, it can also be nice to have a little acid on there to offset the sweetness So I drizzled over a little honey-balsamic glaze. Also super easy (and good on a whole bunch of stuff). Put about a cup of cheap balsamic vinegar in a saucepan over medium high heat. Add about 2 Tbs of honey and let it reduce down until it sticks a bit to the back of a spoon. Take it off the heat and whisk in about a tablespoon of butter. Drizzle over just about anything.

Beet greens: Trim off the tops of the beets and slice into 1 inch strips, put in a large bowl of cool water to clean the grit off. Throw in a skillet with some olive oil and shallots, season with salt and pepper. Let greens wilt down a bit and add a squirt of chicken stock, put the lid on for a few minutes.

Gratin: Butter an oven safe dish. Thinly slice one onion and one bulb of fennel. Sautee in a little butter until they are browned a bit and soft. Peel 3 potatoes ( i used russet because its what I had on hand but pretty much any potato will do). Thinly slice the potatoes ( I used this cool ceramic slicer thing). Layer 1 potato's worth of slices in the baking dish, season with salt and pepper, spoon some of the onion fennel mix on top, shave over some parmesan cheese, repeat. Finish off with a layer of potato and shaved parm. Pour into the dish some heavy cream. Cover with foil and bake in a 375 oven for about 45 minutes. The cream should be bubbly and when you stick a knive in it, it should slide in easily. Take off the foil and let the top brown a bit (about another 5-10 minutes.

For the lamb all I did was generously salt and pepper, sprinkle a bit of fresh rosemary on top and a little olive oil. Put it meat side down in a screaming hot skillet. Resist the urge to touch the meat for at least a 5 minutes. Once the meat has a brown crust on it flip it over and put the skillet in a 400 oven. Leave it in there until a meat thermometer in the middle registers 140 for medium rare. Take the meat out and let it rest on a cutting board for at least 5 minutes before slicing into chops.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Turkey Day!

Thanksgiving- yum. This year we went to Jeremiah's mom's house for the big meal. I brought my secret family recipe Stuffing Balls, some mashed sweet potatoes and a pumpkin cheesecake.
Many people don't get the stuffing ball concept but you have to take my word on this one- delicious. I personally hate soggy stuffing- and this totally fixes that problem with everyone getting their own crispy on the outside, moist on the inside nugget of goodness. It also makes them portable for snacking. Although I cannot divulge the recipe, I can tell you that it has large quantities of sausage in it. And I'm not talking some artisan fancy sausage- this is old school jimmy dean breakfast sausage. And I'm pretty sure that its the porky goodness that always made the stuffing balls the most sought after item of the Thanksgiving meal when I was a kid.
As for the sweet potatoes- they were roasted at 400 until soft, the orange part was scooped out and I added a small pat of butter, a little maple syrup, a pinch of salt, some cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice to taste. Easy and delicious.
For dessert I made Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake
For a 4 fork recipe I thought it was just OK. The flavors were good but the texture was a little dry. Then again, perhaps it was just my lack of baking skills at work and not about the recipe.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Back in the swing of things

I'm happy to report that after quite a few weeks of chaos, packing tape, boxes, etc. we are pretty much unpacked and settled in the new house. YIPPEE And so, this morning, for the first time in a long while I was able to get to the farmers market. I haven't made it there since the weather took a turn toward fall and was pleasantly surprised to find a number of my fall favorites on display. This weeks haul: sugar pumpkins, chanterelle mushrooms, leeks, swiss chard, golden beets, goat cheese, kiwis (which were only 1.50 for a dozen!) yams, pomegranate, and persimmons. I had never had a persimmon before and after a chat with the persimmon vendor- who was lovely- I picked up a few of each variety and she threw in a few extra in my bag for free- woohoo!
I'm kind of excited that fall is here. It's time to bust out some of my favorite food- risotto, braised stuff, mashed potatoes, gratins. yum We shall see what I come up with this week.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Appetizer par-tay

Eva hosted our monthly ladies night in October and chose the theme to be all about appetizers. Sweet- some of my favorite food are tapas. For inspiration I turned to a childhood favorite- Rice balls.
In every decent Italian deli where I grew up there was a huge prepared food and meat counter and this was always a popular item, even for the pickiest of kids. The basic gist- you make a ball out of rice and cheese, possibly put something in the center- cheese or peas perhaps, bread the thing and throw it in the frier. How bad could that be?!
For mine I made a mushroom risotto the night before the party with dried porcini and fresh chanterelles, and finished it off with a little truffle butter. About an hour before the party i formed the risotto into balls, put a little chunk of buffalo mozzarella in the center, and did the usual flour, egg, breadcrumb prep before shallow fry in some olive oil. I let them cool a bit on a baking rack (is it just me or does is seem that putting fried stuff on paper towels just makes them soggy?)
The result was a crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside, earthy, nutty, gooey cheese centered ball of deliciousness. I fried up a few sage leaves for a little color in the dish too.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

All about the sides

Sometimes dinner isn't about the main dish but about what you have next to it. I had picked up some red snapper fillets the other day... tasty and quick cooking for a week night, but a little bland. To give dinner a little extra something-something I threw together a veg medley of sorts that had a great big punch- and really, I think it would be a good side to just about anything. I think I'll call it Puttanesca Hash... hm, maybe not that doesn't sound so good. But really, it was very tasty.
The ingredients:
A few diced mini yukon gold potatoes
A diced peeled eggplant
A pint of heirloom cherry tomatoes
A large diced shallot or small onion
A few diced sweet peppers
A few spoonfulls of capers
A few cloves of garlic
A small handful of diced kalamata olives
the zest of a lemon and a big squeeze of lemon juice
A couple glugs of white wine or chicken broth
EVOO, a TBS of butter, and a generous squirt of chili sauce or a big pinch of chili flakes
It may need a little salt- but taste first- the olives and capers can be quite salty.

The gameplan:
Melt butter and Evoo over a medium/high heat. Add potatoes, shallot to pan and let the spuds get a little soft (its ok if they start to brown a little). Add the eggplant and garlic. Sautee for a few minutes. Add peppers, tomatoes, and wine or broth. Turn down the heat a bit and let it hang out for a little while (maybe 10-15 min). (the eggplant will start to break down and make it creamy and the tomatoes will soften) Squish the tomatoes against the side of the pot with your spoon if they haven't already fallen apart. Add the olives, capers, lemon. Taste. Add salt and spicy stuff to taste. Take a potato chunk out of the pot and make sure they are cooked through.

I topped this with the snapper prepared as a quick pan sear in EVOO with salt and pepper and a squirt of lemon juice. I also threw a few capers and a bit of the left over lemon zest in the pan.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Yay Bev!

This week we have 2 reasons to give Miss Beverly a big giant round of applause:
1) (and this is really the way smaller reason) she was kind enough to give us her weekly produce haul from her CSA because she was going to be out of town to kick butt
2) She totally kicked butt at IronMan Canada yesterday. YAY Bev! We are SO SO proud of you for conquering the 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and 26.2 run. You, my dear, ROCK

And just to make us both feel a little better this is how I used your fantastic produce.

Heirloom tomatoes: stuffed with cheese and italian seasoned breadcrumbs (and grilled because we were having a freak power failure- WTF?!)
Romanescu cauliflower: tossed with EVOO S&P and roasted
Leeks: 1 used to make veggie stock, 2 browned in butter and braised with a little veggie stock
Cutting Celery: in the veggie stock
Beets: bottoms Roasted on the grill and tossed with some orange slices from the tree in the yard and a little lemon juice and salt.
Swiss chard: sauteed with some EVOO, garlic and the beet greens

Still to come the beautiful sweet peppers which I think will become fajitas tomorrow. We shall see.

Thanks Bev and congrats- you put in more hours of training than I can possibly imagine and