Thursday, June 14, 2018

How to find the porchetta recipe

The recipe mentioned by Michael Donahue is one I published years ago, and make several times a year even now.  It's always a big hit.  What I really like, is that once in the oven, several hours before you plan on serving, there's just not much to do until it's ready.

If you have any questons, leave them as a comment on the post itself, and I'll get right back to you.

Hope you enjoy it...and you can click here to find it!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Another treat from Paradise Seafood


If you're a follower of my (now too infrequent, I know) blog, you know that I'm extrememly fond of Paradise Seafood, and Ted the Fish Man, who always has interesting ideas to share.  Remember the fish filets marinated in bottled Italian dressing? Ted the Fish Man.

I had gotten four of Paradise's home-made crab cakes a few weeks ago. They are frozen when you get them, so it's easy to keep them in the freezer.  We were expecting guests so I thawed all four.  But plans changed and we had two left over.  Two days later we had re-scheduled the dinner.

In a flash of inspiration, I took the two leftover crab cakes, crumbled them into a bowl and mixed in two egg yolks.  I used the mixture to stuff white button mushrooms (stems removed, of course) and those cute little multicolor peppers that are sold pretty much everywhere in bag in the produce department. I found some shredded Italian mix cheese in the fridge.  Covered, I chilled them until baking time later in the day.

I preheated the oven to 350 and at dinner time, baked them for about 20 minutes.  They were declared delicious.

It occurs to me that they would also be delicious in a main-course stuffed pepper as well.  But if you're going for a main course, just thaw, brown in a little olive oil and eat with your favorite sauce. 

Paradise will be at the usual spots this weekend but won't be back until late in September, but you can keep the crab cakes in the freezer until you're ready to use them   

Sunday, May 08, 2016

A dinner to remember in Nashville

We'd planned on a few days in New Orleans.  But the storms and flash flood warnings made us think twice.  We decided on Nashville instead.  For one night's dinner I made a reservation at Josephine based on TripAdvisor reviews.  Little did I know that the Nashville Magazine rated them as #1 in town.

We were shown to our seats and our server turned up almost immediately.  I ordered from the aperitif menu, something one doesn’t often see at Southern restaurants, even Nashville.  I asked fol r the Lillet Blanc, a lovely French apéritif. On the rocks.  With a splash of soda and slice of orange, as I would have ordered it in France. She came back to say they were out of that. (Well, one step down from being impressed about the nice apéritif menu).  She offered me a French option, Pineau des Charentes, but she did stumble over the pronunciation. I was happy to help and wasn’t at all disappointed by the replacement.
        We ordered an appetizer to share: the “grilled/chilled asparagus with fresh jumbo lump crab with brown butter hollandaise.  It was delicious if a little short in “jumbo lump crab.”  For the price, a bit small. But delicious nonetheless.
For our main courses I ordered the “Dumpling, rabbit, morel mushroom, peas, grilled onion, spring herbs.” Oh yum. I could find no fault in any part of it.
For his, my hubby ordered “Porter Road pork chop, shaved asparagus and arugula salad, radish, lemon, pecorino.” As pork is almost always overdone, even in good places, he asked for medium rare.  Our server said that was not possible, but they could do it medium. 
That would be okay if it had actually been done that way. But it was cooked well done, and although tasty, was drier than either of us would have liked.  In defense of our server, she offered to have another one done but we were well into our meal before she came back to check and were meeting friends later.

After we’d ordered a delightful couple was seated at the next table. They ordered all from the appetizer/small plate menu. Pretty much everything on it.  And insisted that we taste a couple of their items, since I think they might have over-ordered.   So we got a taste of the fried chicken skins. Oh golly, you’ll never want pork cracklin’ again! And they had us try the scrapple. Okay, fine, my hubby is from PA, and thought it was delicious.  And the cauliflower--good but a bit spicy for my taste…I’m a wimp that way. 

We’d had a lovely dinner and didn’t do dessert—we rarely do.  But the list looked good. All in all, except for the overdone pork chop, it was a fabulous meal, and we can both see why it is so highly rated in Nashville, a town with so many fab places for dinner!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Southwestern Butternut Squash Soup!

It was a cold damp day, like today, and soup was on my mind.

            I’d had several recipes I had wanted to try, and invited a few friends to come sample and critique.  One new-comer to the group hinted that he really would like to be able to cook along with me.

            So rather than getting everything mostly done ahead, I waited until everyone was there and we all pitched in to make several new dishes.  Some you will see later.  A couple you will never see.  That’s just the way it goes.

            What an interesting experiment.  By the time we’d finished, I do believe that every pot, pan, wooden spoon, spatula, whisk, prep bowl and potholder in the kitchen had been used and was piled on my kitchen cabinets.  We may have to rethink this “let me help” idea.

            But this soup is the dish that one guest pronounced “best of show.”

            It was wonderful done with butternut squash, but it does take some time to peel; using a vegetable peeler is the best way to go.  It’s an awkward shape to deal with as well.  You could also use another winter squash, such as acorn or pumpkin.  Or even, I think, canned pumpkin; two 16-ounce cans of pure pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling, which is pre-spiced) should do the trick.

            I’ve used the chipotle Tabasco sauce often.  It’s not as hot as the original red variety, and gives a great smoky flavor to this soup.

            We had it as a first course, but it would make a great winter supper, either as is, or with leftover shredded chicken added.  Some sort of nice green or vegetable salad and some crusty bread and you’ve got dinner!

1 medium butternut squash, about 4 pounds

4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (or 1/2 teaspoon pre-ground nutmeg)
1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons chipotle Tabasco sauce, or to taste
2 ripe plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 ripe but firm avocado, diced
3 green onions, thinly sliced, including some of the green part
The juice and zest of one lime
Cilantro, for garnish

            Peel the squash with a vegetable peeler.  Cut in half lengthwise.  Scoop out and discard the seeds.  Cut the squash into 1” cubes.  In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, bring the stock to a simmer.  Add the squash, cover and simmer until the squash is tender, about 15 minutes.

            Meanwhile, in a heavy skillet over medium heat, melt the butter,  Add the onion and cook until soft and translucent. Add the spices and continue to cook, stirring frequently, another couple of minutes.  Scrape this mixture into the pot with the squash.

            Simmer to soup for another 10 minutes or so.  With a hand blender or in a blender or food processor, pulse several times to just barely puree the squash.  A few small chunks left in will give a pleasant texture to the soup.  Add the cream and Tabasco sauce.  Taste and add salt if desired.

            In a small bowl. combine the tomato, avocado, green onions and lime juice and zest.

            When ready to serve, bring the soup to a simmer.  If necessary, add stock to thin to desired thickness (this should be a thick soup).  Ladle into soup bowls.  Garnish with the tomato mixture and a few leaves of cilantro.  Serves 6-8 as a first course, or 4 as a main course.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

French Scallops with Chestnuts and Apple Cider Sauce

            Since I’ve had the knee surgery I’ve been spending a lot of time sitting with it elevated, often with an ice pack on it.  I’m starting to seriously miss my pots and pans and wooden spoons.  I’d found a recipe that sounded interesting and was quick and easy.  I sent my hubby to the Paradise Seafood truck for scallops and called Bryson and Laretha Randolph to come share it. 

If you’ve read my blog and my columns in the Commercial Appeal, you may remember that Laretha and I have done a lot of cooking together in the past, resulting in many good dishes to share with you.  When I told her what I wanted to try her comment was “That sounds weird.” 

I’d found the recipe in a French culinary magazine, Cuisines et Vins de France.  I have a subscription and love it.  The good thing about this recipe is that you can cut the apples, then rest a bit. Make the apple juice sauce then rest a bit.  Sauté the chestnuts, then rest a bit. 

When you’re ready to eat, just sauté the scallops, heat up the sauce in the sauté pan and put it all together.  At first, we just used a few of the apple sticks to garnish, but when we tasted it we realized that the tartness and crunch of the apple was an important part of the appeal of the dish, so use the whole apple for four servings.

American apple cider vinegar is sharper and less apple-y than French cider vinegar.  I was out of the French style and I haven’t found it anywhere in Memphis now that Mantia’s is gone.  I used sherry wine vinegar. You can order Delouis French apple cider vinegar on Amazon.  It’s worth it! If I make this again before mine comes in, I’ll use one tablespoon of the sherry wine vinegar and one of American cider vinegar. 

I’m not going to give you the whole “dry” versus “processed” scallop lecture.  If you’ve forgotten it, you can find ithere. 

You can buy the cooked chestnuts in jars at Fresh Market, Whole Foods, the Williams-Sonoma outlet and some supermarkets.  I always buy whatever is left on sale at the end of the season because I love to use them in other dishes.  One of my favorites is a chestnut-scallop soup. And just recently with Ana Miller, I made an absolutely fabulous Portuguese chestnut torte.  Try them all…but try this one first!!

Saint-Jacques Rôties aux Châtaignes et
Pommes Granny-Smith
(Scallops with Chestnuts and Granny Smith Apples)

 Half a large lemon
1 Granny Smith apple
2 tablespoons sugar
1 ½ cups apple juice or cider
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons butter (plus one tablespoon more if needed)
1 jar cooked chestnuts (12-15 ounces)
1 ½ pounds dry scallops

          Squeeze the juice from half a lemon into a medium sized bowl of chilled water.  Rinse and dry the apple.  Cut it in half from stem to blossom end.  Remove the core and cut into thin sticks, dropping them into the lemon water as you work.  Set aside.

          Sprinkle the sugar over the bottom of a small pan.  Place over medium heat and cook without stirring until the sugar is medium dark brown.  Remove from the fire and pour in the apple juice (caution: it will splatter!) and vinegar.  Place over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, until the caramelized sugar melts into the sauce.  Set aside.

          In a skillet, over medium heat, melt half the butter.  Add the chestnuts and stir until they start to get a little crispy on the outside and are warmed through.  Set aside.

          When ready to serve, in another large skillet melt the rest of the butter over medium-high heat. Pat the scallops with a paper towel to remove any liquid on the outside.  Add the scallops, in batches if necessary to keep from crowding.  Cook until the bottom is nicely browned. Turn and cook a couple of minutes more, until barely cooked through.  Better to undercook than to overcook!  Remove to a warmed bowl, tent with foil and set aside. If doing in two batches, you might need to add the extra tablespoon of butter to the pan.

          Pour the sauce into the scallop pan and bring to a simmer, scraping the bottom with a wooden spoon to dissolve any browned bits.  Add the chestnuts with any butter or liquid in the pan.  Stir constantly until everything is heated through. 

          Divide the chestnuts among four flat soup bowls.  Nestle the scallops in among the chestnuts.  Ladle the sauce over the top and garnish with the apple sticks.  Serve immediately.  Serves four.


Thursday, December 03, 2015

"Pig Candy," Because...Bacon!!

You probably know that I’m in the middle of recovering from knee surgery.  I’m feeling pretty good, but get tired very easily, so I’ve missed my pots and pans and wooden spoons.

         At physical therapy on Monday Zach, my therapist, was talking to a colleague about brown sugar bacon.  I told them it was called pig candy, that I had made it several times, and that I’d bring them a recipe.  I did more than that. Today I made it and took some to them.  I’m their new favorite patient, I’m pretty sure.

The first time I had this was at least five years ago. My son, Christopher, lives in Massachusetts, and every summer he has a “Bacon-Beer Fest.” The rules are that you must bring something made with bacon, and a six-pack of beer to share that you haven’t had before.  I don’t remember who brought it, and it wasn’t exactly this recipe, but it disappeared in a heartbeat.

There are many versions. I’ve been making it this way for a couple of years and like the combination of flavors.  Other versions call for tongue tinglers other than the creole seasoning I use:  black pepper, cayenne, ginger, to name a few.  And as I write I bet hot Spanish smoked paprika would be fabulous. I’m going try that next time.   

         Once made, it’s at its best eaten within a few hours.  You can refrigerate it, and it will still be delicious, but it will soften up some.

         Leftovers (Ha! Who am I kidding? Leftovers?) are great chopped and sprinkled on a salad. Or sprinkled on baked sweet potatoes or roasted Brussels sprouts. I have a friend who said she’d chopped hers finely and put into deviled eggs.  


“Pig Candy” New Orleans Style

½ cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon dry mustard powder
1 teaspoon creole seasoning, like Tony Chachere’s
1/2 pound thick cut smoked bacon (I like Wright’s)

         Preheat oven to 350o.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and place a cooling rack on top.  Spray heavily with cooking spray.

         In a plastic bag place the brown sugar, mustard powder and creole seasoning and mix well.  Drop the bacon in one slice at a time and toss.  Take it out and make sure there aren’t any bare spots on either side.  If so, pat a bit of brown sugar on it and place on the rack.  Don’t let the bacon strips touch.

         Bake on the top rack of the oven for about 20 minutes.  Then watch pretty carefully until the bacon is done and just crisp but not too brown. In my oven, with the Wright’s bacon I use, it takes 25-27 minutes.

         Remove the pan from the oven and let cool briefly.  Then remove the bacon carefully to a surface lined with parchment or waxed paper.  While still slightly warm, use cooking shears to cut each slice into four or five pieces.  And hide them from yourself until the guests get there!

Friday, October 23, 2015

A Portuguese Dessert for the Season!


Back in the summer, when we were in Portugal, I picked up a couple of cooking magazines.  I’m sure that doesn’t surprise anyone who knows me.  But although I can cook out of French (of course), Italian and Spanish magazines and cookbooks, Portuguese had me stumped.

But I had a source to help me.  Ana Miller, the wife of our church pastor, is from Brazil, where the language spoken is….Portuguese!  She translated several recipes for me at my request, and this week, she, Pastor Will and their daughter came with a few friends so that I could test them.

Everything turned out well, but the dessert was a total treat.  Rich, yes, but this recipe would easily serve twelve. 

I used a jar of roasted chestnuts.  It’s the season; starting around now you can find them at Fresh Market, Whole Foods, Williams-Sonoma and some supermarkets.  At the end of the season every year I buy up all I can find at half price because I have lots of ways to use them: chestnut ravioli, chestnut stuffed onions, or a chestnut scallop soup. 

I made the dessert in the morning before the dinner, but the next day the leftovers were still perfect, so you can easily make this a day in advance.

If the recipe isn’t rich enough, or sweet enough, you can add a dollop whipped cream, but really, I don’t think you’ll need it!


(Portuguese Chestnut Torte)

 For the base:
4 egg yolks plus one large egg
½ cup sugar
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
Butter and flour for the pan

For the filling:
3 envelopes unflavored gelatin
1 12-oz jar cooked chestnuts (see note)
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups heavy whipping cream
¼ tsp salt
1/3 cup ruby port (or dark rum)
Powdered sugar and cocoa powder to sprinkle

Preheat the oven to 350 o.  Butter a 10-inch spring-form pan.  Dust with flour, shaking out the excess. 

In a bowl, beat the egg yolks briefly with an electric mixer.  Gradually add the sugar and beat on medium-high speed until creamy and lightened, about five minutes. Gradually add the sifted cocoa powder and beat until well mixed, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed.  Pour into the prepared pan and bake for a about 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Let cool, then remove from the pan and reserve.  Wash the pan and butter the inside.  Cut a piece of parchment or waxed paper to fit inside the base.  Place the cooled base back into the pan.

Wash the mixer beaters and place with a large bowl into the freezer to chill (this makes the cream whip faster). 

Put about ¼ cup of water into a wide flat bowl.  Sprinkle the gelatin slowly over the top.  All the gelatin should be moistened.  If the top isn’t, sprinkle with additional water until it is.  Set aside. 

Reserve four chestnuts and put the rest into a food processor with the condensed milk.  Process until completely mixed and pretty smooth. 

Scrape the gelatin into a small pan with the port.  Warm over low heat just until the gelatin is melted.  Pour into the chestnut mixture and blend well. 

In the chilled bowl with the chilled beaters, whip the cream until stiff peaks form.  Fold the chestnut mixture into the cream just until there are no streaks.  Pour onto the cake base in the pan.  Cover and chill until completely set, 4 to 6 hours.

To serve, remove the sides.  Dust first with powdered sugar, then lightly with cocoa powder.  Coarsely chop the reserved chestnuts and spinkle in a circle about halfway from the center to the edge. 

NOTE:  If you prefer to use fresh chestnuts, start with about 1 ¼ pounds. Cut an X on the flat side of each.   Cook in lightly salted water until soft, 8 to 10 minutes.  Let cool, then remove the shells and skin.  Proceed as above.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

A refreshing cocktail for the end of summer!

I have spoken many times in the past of my wine dinner club that meets monthly.  This past Saturday, we met at the home of Jerry and Jeanene Feinstone.  The hostess sets the theme, and this month it was “End of the Summer Produce.”   It was my turn to bring the opening cocktail. 
I have made this a few times since it was in the article I wrote for “A Cookout for 10 for $100,” and loved it every time.  The watermelon I used was one of those cute seedless ones, about 12” in diameter. 
There were 10 of us at the dinner.  This quantity offered refills for anyone who wanted them, and I think everyone accepted the offer.  And there was still a cup or so left over.
This is very refreshing with the watermelon and the lime juice.  Once you’ve made and chilled it, taste.  Depending on the ripeness and sweetness of the watermelon, you might need a touch more simple syrup, or a little more lime juice. 

Watermelon Daiquiri
1 medium seedless watermelon
1 cup fresh lime juice
1 cup simple syrup
3 cups light rum
2 limes, each cut into six wedges
 Before juicing the watermelon, use a melon baller to make a dozen or so melon balls from the heart of the melon. Alternately, cut a dozen 1” chunks. Juice the watermelon as above. You should have at least ten cups juice. Place in a refrigerator container.  As you squeeze the lime juice, add the squeezed halves (wash the limes before squeezing) to the container.  Add the lime juice and simple syrup.  Stir in the rum and chill well.
 When ready to serve, shake the daiquiris with ice in a cocktail shaker. Strain into ice filled glasses. Add a cocktail pick with a melon ball and a lime wedge on it to each drink.  Makes about 12 servings.          
 NOTE: For simple syrup, put one cup sugar and one cup water in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer and stir until sugar has dissolved. Let cool before using.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Easy, tasty Basque Pinxto!


      We recently returned from a five week trip to Spain and Portugal.  One of the aspects of Spanish food we loved was the tapas (in most of Spain) or pinxtos (as they call them in the Basque area).  They varied greatly from region to region. 
       But in most regions, there was some version of a stuffed piquillo pepper.  They are widely available--I got several jars on sale for $2.49 at my local Kroger store. This is a particularly easy version, a pinxto, since we had it in San Sebastian, in the heart of the Basque region.  And wow!! is it good!
     No recipe.  Preheat your oven to 425. Line a baking sheet with parchment and spray or brush lightly with olive oil.  Drain the peppers and pat them dry.  Cut a good full-flavored Brie into strips abour 1/4" thick.  Put each most of the way into a piquillo.   Arrange them on the baking sheet and bake until the cheese is just soft.  Place on untoasted slices of baguette, drizzle with apricot preserves and sprinkle with slivered fresh basil.
     That's it.  I served it to our church connection group and there were lots of licked fingers but not a single crumb of any of the dish left on plates.
      I'm thinking it might not make such a bad brunch dish, the stuffed pepper atop a slice of baguette "French-toasted," perhaps with a bit more preserves than I put on the appetizer serving. 
       Either way, trust're gonna love it!!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Terrific Spanish Tuna!

You may know that we've very recently returned from an extended vacation (five weeks) in Spain and Portugal.  We had a lovely time and ate some great food.  We were in a number of different culinary regions but there was one constant: the ensalada mixte. 
It is a plate of lettuce--sometimes mixed greens, sometimes straight iceberg or romaine--topped with any number of goodies: roasted beets, cucumber, tomato, red or white onion, pickled or lightly cooked carrots, and more.  The one constant was a quartered hard-cooked egg, and a lot of very tasty tuna.

The photos here are two sides of the same salad. It was one of the best we'd had, and I asked about the tuna, which didn't taste like our normal canned tuna.  I was told it is bonito, line caught and hand packed.  I checked in a grocery and it is about 4€ a jar.  I fully intended to get some...but let it slip and didn't. So sorry!!