Tuesday, September 1, 2009

California BLT's

The following recipe is another of Ina Gartens. She makes these sandwiches, wraps them in butcher paper and takes them on a picnic. Mike and I eat them at home, on picnics and on our roof top. They are like green eggs and ham - you would eat them anywhere! Try them before the tomato season ends.

California BLT's
Serves 2


  • 6 thick-cut slices of smoked bacon 
  • 4 slices of good white bread, cut 1/2 inch thick
  • 4 tablespoons good mayonnaise (she recommends Hellman's, I recommend reduced fat)
  • 4 to 8 green lettuce leaves, washed and spun very dry
  • 1 ripe Hass avocado
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1 large ripe tomato, sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place a baking wire rack on a sheet pan and arrange the bacon on the rack in a single layer. Bake for 15 to 25 minutes,until the bacon is browned and crisp. Drain on paper towels and set aside.

Place the bread slices on a sheet pan and toast them for 5 minutes. Turn the slices and toast for 1 more minute, until all the bread is evenly browned. Place 2 slices of bread on a cutting board. Spread each slice with about 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise. Cove the slices with a layer of lettuce. Peel the avocado and slice it 1/2 inch thick. (I like to cut the avocado into small chunks and mash it up a little bit - it seems to stay on the sandwich better). Toss the avocado slices gently with the lemon juice, and arrange on top of the lettuce leaves. Place 3 slices of bacon on top of each sandwich and add a layer of tomato slices on top of the bacon. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.

Spread each of the remaining 2 slices of toasted bread with 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise and place, mayonnaise side down, on the sandwiches. Cut in half and serve.

These sandwiches are so good. They are so filling you don't need to serve anything with them except a spoon to pick up what falls out when you take a bite. Life is good - enjoy!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Potato-Crusted Flounder Stuffed with Fire-Roasted Red Pepper & Chorizo

This recipe was lifted straight from The Food Network - they lifted it from a small restaurant called Noah's. Noah's  is a 75 seat, chef owned and operated, restaurant located in Stonington, CT - just seven miles from the town of Mystic. Their menu looks fantastic and so is this dish.

When I first started doing this blog I said some of the recipes were easy and some were not. This one proved to be quite difficult for me. I have adapted it over the years to make it much easier and much less time consuming. The original recipe had you making a fresh tomato sauce and a stuffing that took so much time that you were exhausted before assembling the dish. The trick is to make the stuffing the day before you need it. You will have plenty left over to freeze so making the dish for a second and third time is a breeze. One of the ingredients in the stuffing is chorizo. I hate to admit it, but I don't trust anyone's chorizo but my own, so I'll make that too. I'll give you the recipe but you can always purchase it and save yourself even more time.

Day One
Making Chorizo and Stuffing

I found a chorizo recipe in Cuisine Magazine, Issue 68 on page 34.

Sweet and Spicy Chorizo
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 pound bulk pork sausage
  • 1 poblano chile , roasted, peeled, seeded, and diced
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Combine brown sugar and spices. Blend in remaining ingredients except vegetable oil.

Saute the mixture in vegetable oil. Drain and set aside. You will use the chorizo in the stuffing.

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 pound of chorizo, diced small if you are purchasing it already made
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced small
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves, stemmed and chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 ripe red bell peppers, charred over an open flame, chilled, peeled and diced
  • 2 tablespoons sherry
  • 1-1/2  to 2 cups breadcrumbs
  • Salt and pepper
To make the stuffing: In a large saute pan, add the olive oil, then chorizo, and let it cook for about 2 minutes. Add the onion and garlic, and saute on medium heat until the onions are soft, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the oregano and bay leaf and cook another 2 minutes, until you can smell the herbs cooking. Add the diced bell peppers and sherry and let simmer 1 minute. Turn off the heat. Fold in the bread crumbs until all liquid has been absorbed. Season with salt and pepper. Taste it. Adjust and set aside.

I generally make this dish for two. At this point I freeze the stuffing into 1/2 cup portions which is all you need each time you make the dish. You are done for the day. Relax and have a glass of wine!

Stuffing in 1/2 cup portions

Potato-Crusted Flounder Stuffed with Fire-Roasted Red Peppers and Chorizo
Serves 2

After Fish Has Been Plated
Day Two

Tomato Sauce
You can make your own sauce, but I find this dish has so much flavor that it really overpowers the sauce. I say canned is fine.
  • 1 - 8 ounce can of tomato sauce
  • drizzle of olive oil
  • 2 fresh basil leaves, torn
  • salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup of stuffing

Potato Crust:
  • 1 large russet potato
  • salt and pepper
  • 1-1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 fresh flounder fillets per person, about 4 to 5 ounces per person
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
Filets Placed on Potato Mounds
  1. Place the ingredients for the tomato sauce in to a small pan and simmer.
  2. To make the potato crust: Using a mandoline shred the potato into a bowl. Add sat and pepper and add cornstarch. Mix until blended and set aside.
  3. To stuff and crust the fish: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  4. Lay out the fillets flat on a work surface and season with salt and pepper. Place a golf-ball sized piece of stuffing in the center of 1 fillet. Spread to distribute the stuffing evenly over the filet. Top with second fillet. Repeat process with remaining fillets.
  5. Heat a large nonstick, oven proof saute pan over med-high heat. Add olive oil. When hot put two mounds of shredded potatoes in the basic shape of the fish in the oil. Lay the stuffed fillets on top of the potatoes - press down lightly. Let sit until the potatoes are golden brown about 5 minutes. Carefully flip over stuffed flounder (check to make sure potatoes are good and brown before flipping). Place the flounder in oven for 9 to 12 minutes, or until the fish is cooked through.
  6. Remove the fish from the oven. Ladle tomato sauce onto serving plates. Lay the stuffed flounder over the sauce and serve with a vegetable, such as sauteed spinach.
I know this dish looks and sounds complicated, but once you have done it you will find that it is quite easy. I began making this in 2005 and always find that it makes everyone who eats it smile. Life is good - enjoy!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Lentil Soup

On August 10, 2009 WebMD published an article stating that "[p]eople who mostly follow the Mediterranean diet lower their risk of mental decline." In my quest to avoid Alzheimer's disease I purchased Dr. Angelo Acquista's book The Mediterranean Prescription.  He explains what we should all be eating and also publishes meal plans and recipes. During the last week I have downed at least two cups of olive oil and eaten more fish than I've had for the last six months.  Here is The Twelve Guiding Principles of the Mediterranean Prescription that Dr. Acquista says we should all be eating:

  1. Eat lots of fruits.
  2. Eat lots of vegetables.
  3. Eat lots of legumes (such as beans, peas, and lentils).
  4. Eat lots of nuts and seeds.
  5. Eat lots of whole grains, especially whole-grain bread.
  6. Use olive oil liberally, both in salads and in cooking.
  7. Consume a moderate about of low-fat dairy products.
  8. Eat fish.
  9. Eat the right fats (have a high ratio of unsaturated fats to saturated fats in your diet).
  10. Engage in regular physical activity.
  11. Drink wine (especially red) in moderation, if you choose.
  12. Eat only small amounts of red meat and meat products.
One of the first recipes that I made from his book was his Lentil Soup. He says it serves four and those servings are extremely generous. Mike and I enjoyed a cup of this before our main entree.

Lentil Soup


One 14-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 pound dried lentils, picked through and rinsed
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 celery ribs, chopped
4 stalks Swiss chard, thoroughly washed, trimmed, and cut into 1-inch strips
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper


  • Cook the tomatoes in 1 tablespoon oil for 15 minutes and set aside.
  • Rinse lentils under cold running water. Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil, in a 6-quart pot, and add all ingredients, including the pre-cooked tomatoes, except 2 tablespoons olive oil.
  • Bring back to a boil, then lower heat and simmer covered 30 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lentils are tender.
  • Remove from hear and add remaining 2 tablespoons oil.
I have tried to purchase swiss chard in the past and haven't been able to locate it. I found a beautiful bunch at our local farmer's market. If you have never seen it its stems are a lovely red, bright yellow and white. The entire plant is edible.

It is a nutritional powerhouse of food loaded with vitamins and is quite delicious.

I have to admit that I fell off the prescription this weekend enjoying Steak Diane, a sugary desert and a glass or two of chardonnay. I'm sure I had something else that I shouldn't have had, but I can't remember. :-)  Life is good - enjoy!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Tomato Salads

Caprese Salad

Nothing beats a simple tomato salad, paired with a crusty loaf of bread and a cold glass of white wine, on a hot summers evening. The farmer's markets are overflowing with all kinds of beautiful tomatoes. Here in Indiana the tomatoes don't arrive until sometime in July and are gone in early September. We Hoosiers have to make good use of our time. It makes me long for Tennessee where the tomatoes arrived in early summer and stayed into fall.

The one salad I adore is the Caprese Salad, or Insalata Caprese as the say in Italy. The first caprese salad that I ever had was in Italy. I hate to say it but it wasn't the best. The best was served to me in an Italian restaurant in Providence, RI. where Mike and I were dining with our friends, Lori and Ann. (We met them while on a Rick Steve's Best of Europe Tour.) 
Ann, Lori and me in Reutte, Austria

They gave us a grand tour of Providence showing all things Italian. We ended up at a Restaurant called Zooma where they were family so we were family too. The heirloom tomatoes were grown on the top on the restaurant and had just been picked. I swear they were still warm.

The salad can be made in different ways, but here is my rendition. The one thing you want to make sure of is that all of your ingredients are fresh and in season.

Caprese Salad

2 Ripe red tomatoes, sliced 1/4" thick
1/2 pound Fresh Cow's or Buffalo Mozzarella, sliced 1/4" thick
1/4 cup Olive oil, extra virgin
Kosher Salt
Black Pepper, freshly ground
Fresh Basil

Alternate tomato and cheese slices in a circle on a plate. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Drizzle olive oil over the tomatoes and cheese. Sprinkle with the basil. Serve immediately.

You are supposed to only use red tomatoes so that the salad represents the Italian flag - i.e., red, white and green. As you can see from the picture above I like to mix it up a bit.

A few weeks ago I saw a chef make a tomato salad on the Today's Show. All he did was slice tomatoes 1/4" thick, arrange them on a plate, sprinkle with salt and pepper, add a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. This salad takes less than five minutes to prepare and is delicious. 

Life is good - enjoy!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Leaping Frog Chicken

Yesterday I went to see Nora Ephron's  movie Julie & Julia. Having cooked some of Julia Childs's famous recipes and having read Julie Powell's book I couldn't wait to see the movie. For any cook this movie was inspirational. My main take away from both women was that you have to be fearless both in life and in the kitchen.  It got me thinking about a recipe I had found in the June 2009 issue of Gourmet Magazine.  I cut it out and put it aside thinking I wasn't up to the challenge. After yesterday's movie I was ready - I was fearless.  The recipe is for Leaping Frog Chicken! 

As you can see a picture is worth a thousand words. The technique for flattening the bird or the so-called "leaping frog" technique comes from the Latin-cooking authority Maricel Presilla. You will not believe how easy this is.

Photograph From Gourmet Magazine

  1. With the drumstick of the chicken facing you, cut between the body and the one drumstick, leaving the drumstick attached.
  2. Widen the area around the thigh joint and bend the leg back until it pops out. of joint but still remains attached. It's not difficult to do; it's actually a matter of feel. You'll see, the next drumstick will go much faster.
  3. Exchange your knife for kitchen or poultry shears. Lifting up the breast, cut through the ribs all the way to the shoulder joint, first on one side, then on the other. Now the bird is essentially in two pieces that are hinged at the shoulder. Turning over the chicken so that it is skin side up, open it so the it's splayed out on the work surface.
  4. With the heel of one hand press down hard on the breastbone to crack and flatten it.
  5. Stand back and admire your work. From this topographical perspective, the chicken is huge you can see all the meat you're getting.
When cooked this chicken is incredibly juicy and cooks evenly. The taste is fabulous. Now it's time to marinate and cook this wonderful recipe.

Leaping Frog Chicken
Serves 8


1 chicken (about 3-1/2 pounds)
8 cloves garlic, smashed
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 tablespoons Argentinean aji molido or hot smoked paprika (pimenton picante)
1 tablespoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 lemon, cut into 6 rounds.


Cut Chickens: Rinse and pat dry chicken. Discard any visible fat from chickens. Cut and flatten chicken as described above.

Marinate Chickens: Puree garlic with 1/8 cup of olive oil, paprika, oregano, cumin, allspice, 1 tablespoon fine sea salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper in a blender or food processor until smooth.
  • Stir together 1/2 tablespoon marinade and the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a small bowl and reserve, chilled, for basting.
  • Put chicken in a large 4-sided sheet pan. Using a few lemon slices as spreaders, rub some of marinade all over the chicken, then stuff lemon slices with remaining marinade under skin of breasts and thighs. Marinate, chilled, at least 8 hours (and up to 12).

Marinated Chicken Put on Clean Grill - Note the lemons
under the skin.

Grill Chicken: Prepare grill for indirect -heat cooking over medium hot charcoal (medium-high for gas).
  • Oil grill rack, then grill chicken directly over coals, turning once (more if flare-ups occur), until browned, about 5 minutes total. Move chicken to area of grill with no coals underneath (for gas turn off one side and turn remaining burner on high) and grill, covered, turning occasionally and basting with reserved marinade mixture, until chickens are cooked through, 40 to 45 minutes (do not baste during last 5 minutes; discard any leftover basting sauce). Add more charcoal as necessary. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting into serving pieces.
Almost Ready!

Cooks Note: The chicken can be roasted in a 4-sided sheet pan in center of oven for about 45 minutes

I found that I was a bit nervous about turning such a large chicken on the grill. It turned out to be easy although there were several flare-ups so have a water bottle handy. I kept the meaty part (breasts) of the chicken pointed toward the side of the grill that was on, so that it was cooked though. As Presilla remarked "[e]very so often, a recipe comes along and changes your life, and this one will." Life is good - enjoy!

Sundays Are For Baking Bread - Part Three

If you have read my blog, in the past, you know I have a sourdough starter which requires that you use it or lose it. The instructions say that you must use and feed it once a week. I'll admit that I have gone two weeks and perhaps a bit longer before figuring out how to incorporate it into our eating regime. This week I decided to try my hand at english muffins. I have a good friend - I'll call her "Stacy"- who found out what I was making and chided me by saying that I could easily purchase a half dozen muffins for $2.00. While this is true that comment came from a girl that once told me that boxed mashed potatoes were superior to homemade! Her secret - add garlic, so I'll let you be the judge.

I understand that english muffins are inexpensive, but I was curious about how they were made. English Muffins are cooked on a griddle - just like pancakes! These were really fun to make and they freeze really well too. Thank you King Arthur Flour for the following recipe.

Sourdough English Muffins
Makes 24

2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 cups warm water, 105 degrees to 110 degrees F
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 cup sourdough starter
7 to 8 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose flour
1/2 cup non-fat dry milk
1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sour salt (citric acid), optional
Approximately 2 tablespoons cornmeal or semolina

  • In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the sugar in the warm water. Stir in and dissolve the yeast, and then mix in the sourdough starter and 1 cup of flour. Let this sit for a few minutes, until the mixture begins to bubble.
  • Add the dry milk, butter, salt, sour salt (if you're using it; it's a nice flavor-booster) and a second cup of flour, and beat well. Add 5 to 6 cups of flour, one cup at a time, to form a dough that holds together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
  • Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it until it's smooth and springy, but slightly on the slack side about 8 minutes. Add flour only as necessary to prevent sticking. Clean out and grease your bowl and place the dough in the greased bowl, turning it so that a thin film of oil coats all sides. Cover the dough with a damp towel, let it stand until it has doubled in size, 1 to 1-1/2 hour.
  • When the dough has risen, punch it down, turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface, cover it and let it sit for a few minutes (to relax the gluten). Divide the dough into two pieces and roll each piece out separately to a 1/2-inch thickness. Cut the dough into 3-inch rounds.
My cutter is a vintage tuna can with the top and bottom cut out. This can is about 20 years old. Cans that are made today are seamless on the bottom, so you can't cut the bottom out.

  • Re-roll and cut any remaining scraps. Place the rounds, evenly spaced, onto cornmeal or semolina sprinkled baking sheets (12 to 13 rounds per sheet), sprinkle them with additional cornmeal or semolina, cover with a damp towel, and let them rise until light and puffy, about 1 hour.

This picture shows the muffins at the beginning of the rising process.
  • Carefully transfer the rounds (as many at a time that will fit without crowding) right-side up to a large electric griddle preheated to 350 degree F. Cook them 2 minutes on each side, then 6 additional minutes on each side. Be gentle during these first few flips so the muffins don't deflate! Cook six minutes more on each side, then up to an additional 4 minutes on each side, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of a muffin registers 190 degrees F. Remove them from the griddle and cool on a wire rack.
Look how tall they get!

I replaced three cups of the white flour with whole wheat with no noticeable problems.

As for my friend "Stacy" I gave her a couple of muffins to compare to the Aunt Millie's brand she buys at Marsh Grocery. No word yet on what she thinks, but I hope she liked them. Life is good-enjoy!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

French Cut Green Beans With Shallots

For some reason all sanity leaves me when shopping at the farmer's market. At my local grocery store, when shopping for green beans, I'll pick up a handful for the two of us, but at the farmers market it's at least two pounds. The only problem with this is that we have to eat beans for a least a week. Sometimes, I steam them other times I boil them with new potatoes - I'm just not to creative when it comes to cooking beans. I found a new way to cook them in the instruction and recipe book that came with my Cuisinart Food Processor. We've been eating them cooked this way for a couple of weeks now and have had hardly any leftovers! Another plus is that there is only 80 calories in a serving.

Not to pretty - but tastes pretty good!

French Cut Green Beans With Shallots

Makes 6 servings
Preparation: 15 to 20 minutes


1-1/2 pounds fresh green beans trimmed, and cut to fit feed tube horizontally
3 large shallots, peeled, and cut into 1-inch pieces
1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
6 tablespoons water
2-1/4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar*
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt

  • Insert the slicing disc. Place beans horizontally in large feed tube and process, using light pressure. Remove and reserve.
  • Insert metal blade. Process shallots until finely chopped, about 5 seconds
  • Warm oil in a 3-1/2 quart saute pan over medium heat. Add chopped shallots and saute until soft but not browned, about 2 minutes. Add green beans and saute for 3 to 4 minutes. Add water and reduce heat to low. Cover pan and cook until crisp tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add vinegar. Season with pepper and salt. Serve warm.
*Substitute a fruit flavored vinegar for a change of flavor.

I love the idea of being able to french fresh green beans. The amazing thing is that I have had this food processor for at least ten years and never used it in this way. Life is good - enjoy!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Eggplant Parmesan

I have two subscriptions to cooking magazines. One is Cuisine the other is EatingWell. EatingWell's  motto is "where good taste meets good health". Like Cuisine, EatingWell publishes recipes using seasonally available food. They have a fantastic recipe index that is divided into sections starting with appetizers and continuing with soups, sides and salads, chicken and turkey, beef, pork, seafood, vegetarian, sauces and dressing, breads and ending with deserts. This index is full of great information marking each recipe as either healthy weight "HW", lower carbs "LC" or healthy heart "HH". You also are told the calories, fat, carbs, fiber, sodium and if the meal will fit into your budget - costing less than $3.00 per serving. They even list a good number of their recipes online at eatingwell.com.  

Our farmer's market is overflowing now with eggplant . They range in color from almost black to dark purple to light purple and even white. Some are petite and oval some elongated and some are fat and heavy. I picked out two fat ones and headed home. Now what to cook? I really like buying food based on how it looks or smells and then deciding what to do with it. The September/October 1995 issue of EatingWell provided me with a healthy version of Eggplant Parmesan.

Eggplant Parmesan

Serves 6


2 eggplants (about 2 pounds total)
3 egg whites
3 tablespoons water
1 cup fine dry breadcrumbs
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (1 ounce), divided
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup slivered fresh basil leaves
2 - 1/2 cups tomato sauce
3/4 cup grated part-skim mozzarella cheese (3 ounces)


  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat two baking sheets and an eight by eleven inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
  • Cut eggplants crosswise into 1/4 inch thick slices. Whisk egg whites and water in a shallow dish until frothy. Combine breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup Parmesan, salt and pepper  in another shallow dish. Dip the eggplant slices into the egg-white mixture, then coat with the breadcrumb mixture. (Discard any leftover breadcrumbs and egg white.) Arrange the eggplant slices in a single layer on the prepared baking sheets. (I spray the tops of the eggplant with nonstick cooking spray to help them brown.) Bake for 15 minutes, turn the eggplant slices over and bake until crisp and golden, about 15 minutes longer.
  • Stir basil into tomato sauce. Spread about 1/2 cup of the sauce in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Arrange half of the eggplant slices over the sauce, overlapping slightly. Spoon 1 cup of the remaining sauce over the eggplant and sprinkle with half of the mozzarella cheese. Add a layer of the remaining eggplant slices and top with the remaining sauce, mozzarella and Parmesan. Bake, uncovered, until the sauce bubbles and the top is golden, 15 to 20 minutes.
Nutrition Information:
Per serving: 203 calories; 6 g fat (3 g sat, 2 g mono); 13 mg cholesterol; 29 g carbohydrate; 12 g protein; 8 g fiber; 563 mg sodium; 777 mg potassium.

I like to place this on top of 1 ounce of cooked pasta and serve it with a small salad. Life is good-enjoy!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Mustard-Roasted Fish

Mustard-Roasted Fish

Anytime I make a dish by Ina Garten (Queen of The Food Network) Mike likes to pretend he is Jeffery. Jeffery is the husband of Ina Garten aka The Barefoot Contessa. We laugh because we think Jeffery must be the luckiest man in the world. He drives around in a fancy BMW, works from home a lot, lives in a beautiful house, has fantastic friends with exquisite tastes and always gets served great food by a lovely woman who seems to love him for better or worse.

I have made Ina's mustard-roasted fish several times and no matter what type of fish I use it just seems to work out. The red snapper that the recipe calls for is best, but it's sometimes tough to find in land-locked Indiana. I call this a "having company" recipe. Everything can be made before your guests arrive - 15 minutes in the oven and dinner is ready. You get to enjoy your guests instead of staying in the kitchen.  What's not to like about that?

Mustard-Roasted Fish

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Serves 4

  • 4 (8 ounce) fish fillets such as red snapper 
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 ounces of creme fraiche
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 2 teaspoons drained capers

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. (You can also use an ovenproof baking dish.) Place the fish filets skin side down on the sheet pan. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.

Combine the creme fraiche, 2 mustards, shallots, capers, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a small bowl. Spoon the sauce evenly over the fish fillets, making sure the fish is completely covered. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish, until it is barely done. (The fish will flake easily at the thickest part when it's done) Be sure not to overcook it! Serve hot or at room temperature with the sauce from the pan spooned over the top.

Thanks Ina and Jeffery for letting us all live the dream. Life is short-enjoy!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Chili's Guiltless Black Bean Burger

Mike has started a new job that requires about 50% travel. Everyone knows what a nightmare it is to try to eat well when traveling. The portions are huge, the fat and sodium are extremely high, fiber is non-existent and you can hardly find a whole grain product. Last week, while flying to Houston, via Charlotte, NC Mike had dinner at Chili's Grill & Bar. He tried their guiltless black bean burger with steamed vegetables. He liked it. When he got home I thought I would try to duplicate it. I found a website called The Recipe Link which describes itself as "Your Guide To What's Cooking on the Net!" They lifted this recipe from a book called Famous Restaurant Recipes: Copycat Recipes From America's Favorite Dishes written by Sallie Stone. 

Late Sunday I put the burgers together and I just couldn't bring myself to cook them. The thought of mushy beans acting like a hamburger just didn't appeal to me. Yesterday I finally got up the nerve and cooked them. Yes - they do mash when you bite them but they turned out quite tasty and you feel pretty good about yourself finally figuring out how to eat the beans that nutritionists have been telling us to eat for years. I have adapted her recipe a bit to help reduce calories.

Chili's Guiltless Black Bean Burgers

For The Black Bean Burgers:
  • 1-1/2 cans black beans (24 ounces), rinsed and drained
  • 2 tablespoons chopped white or red onion
  • 1/4 cup red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • about 1/2 of an egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro or parsley, chopped (fresh works best)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
For the Sandwich:
  • 4 whole wheat hamburger buns
  • low-fat ranch dressing
  • shredded lettuce
  • tomato slices
  • pickles
  • red onion
  1. Mix one egg in a bowl (Only use half the mixture)
  2. Combine black beans, onion, bell pepper, cayenne, egg, bread crumbs and herb in a food processor and blend. If mixture is to wet to shape into patties, add more bread crumbs.
  3. Form and shape into four patties. For best results make 24 hours ahead and refrigerate so patties will set well.
  4. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Fry patties for 3 minutes on each side. They should be crisp on the outside and hot in the middle.
  5. Arrange sandwich with patty, low fat dressing, red onion, pickles and tomato.
I read many of the comments that were made about this burger. One man said he eats this without a bun served atop basmati brown rice and topped with mango salsa. That sounds good to me. Life is good- enjoy!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Blueberry Pie

My friends Jessie and Dan brought me a pint of blueberries as a thank you for watering their plants while they were on vacation. It got me to thinking about a pie I made in July of 1997. I only remember the date because it was in the July/August issue of Cuisine Magazine. July is the perfect time to make a blueberry pie - the berries are fresh and inexpensive. I liked this recipe not just because it tastes so good but because it is beautiful and different from the way most pies look. I really struggled with the crust this go round. It was so fragile that I could hardly work with it. I used the food processor instead of my hands to make the crust and I didn't get enough water in it. Next time I'll know better.

Blueberry Pie
(1- 9" Deep-Dish Pie)
Work Time: 35 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes

2-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cake flour
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 stick unsalted butter, chilled
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons Crisco shortening, chilled
1/2 cup ice water

1 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
6 cups fresh blueberries
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced

Egg Wash & Glaze
1 egg white
1-1/2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon sugar

  • Combine dry ingredients. Cut butter and Crisco (I use sticks) into fourths lengthwise-dice
  • Cut in butter, then Crisco with pastry blender. Shoot for pea-size and smaller bits
  • Lightly mix in ice water 1 tablespoon at a time. The curst is done when you can gently form a ball.
  • Divide dough in half. Form into disks and place in gallon sized Ziplock bags. Chill 30 minutes (or day ahead).
  • Rinse the berries . Mix the sugar, corn starch, salt and butter in a large Ziplock bag. Next add the berries, seal the bad and shake it all up. Turn the bag several times to make sure the berries are all coated.
  • Remove one dough disk from the refrigerator. Cut the seams of the bag and begin rolling with the dough still in the bag.
  • When dough is 3/8" thick turn it out from bag onto a floured surface. Flour top of dough. Roll from center out in all directions, to approximately 1/8" thick.
  • Gently lift dough to pie pan. Trim edges flush; cover and chill. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  • When chilled dock the bottom crust (poke holes with a fork) and paint it with the egg wash to keep the crust from getting soggy. Dump in the berries!
Making Leaves and a Braided Edge

  • Prepare the top crust as we did the bottom by rolling to a 1/8" thickness. The braids are made by cutting linguini-width strips (3 at a time). Make braids by weaving 3 strips together (like braiding hair). Paint the pie's edge with water and secure braids along top edge.
  • Make the leaves by cutting ovals in dough. Remove each oval and press (don't cut) with the back of a small knife to make veins.
  • The berries tend to "pop" and bleed when cooking. So make two layers of leaves to keep them afloat. Now arrange them like a crown of laurels. Brush with egg wash/water mixture and sprinkle with sugar.
  • Bake in bottom 1/3 of oven. Check in 20 minutes. Foil any part that's browning too fast. The filling bubbles when pie is done, but berries in center remain whole. Total baking time is 40 minutes.
The leaves are really easy to make, but I did see where King Arthur Flour sells a nice set of cutters that you can use to make this pie for $6.95:  http://www.kingarthurflour.com/shop/items/fruit-mini-pastry-cutters-set-of-6

Life is good - enjoy!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Skirt Steak Tostadas

Like any good foodie I like to watch the Food Network. I also tend to get caught up in the reality shows featuring cooking contests.  This year, for the first time, Mike and I started watching The Next Food Network Star. Several weeks ago the contestants were given the following challenge:
Create a great all-American dish using all the items in their baskets of mystery regional ingredients. The winner was Melissa d'Arabian who had a New Mexico themed basket of assorted chili peppers, honey and skirt steak. She created a skirt steak tostada with a zesty mango salsa. The prize for winning the contest was having your recipe published in the July 3-5 edition of USA Weekend. Mike and I decided we would try to re-create her dish for Saturday supper.

We headed out to do our shopping at The Fresh Market. They always carry skirt steak and their produce selection is wonderful.  This recipe has three different kinds of chilies - some I am familiar with some I'm not. I asked the young man in the produce section to show me the habanero chili. His knowledge of chilies was worse than mine. After speaking with the produce manager we had what we needed
This is a habanero chili

Don't let this tiny chili fool you. It is hot - hot - hot! Below is the scoville rating for the habanero as depicted on Wikipedia.

SR: 100,000-350,000

I wore a plastic bag on one hand when I removed the seeds, but I neglected to cover the hand that was holding the pepper. I decided to gently lick my finger to test for taste and heat. OMG it was so hot it took my breath away.   Don't let this scare you. The marinade for the skirt steak where the habanero resides is wonderful. This recipe is a bit time consuming so have someone give you a hand

Skirt Steak Tostadas

Marinade Ingredients:

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/2 cup olive oil

Juice of 3 lemons

1/2 cup honey

1 cup finely chopped onion

1 habanero chili, seeded and chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2-pounds skirt steak

Mango Salsa Ingredients:

1 red onion, finely chopped

1 large, ripe mango, peeled and finely chopped

1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves

1 poblano chili, seeded and minced

1/4 cup honey

Juice of 3 limes

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Other Ingredients:

1-16 oz can of black beans, drained

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup red wine

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped

Vegetable oil, for frying

6 corn tortillas or tostada shells


  • In a large, shallow dish, whisk the soy sauce, olive oil, lemon juice, honey, onion and habanero, plus salt and pepper to taste. Add meat, cover and refrigerate. (I use a large zip lock bag.) Marinate for at least 1 hour, but preferably for several hours.
  • Combine all salsa ingredients in a bowl and set aside. Let is sit for at least 20 minutes so the flavors will develop.
  • Simmer beans, olive oil, wine and jalapeno in a saucepan for 20 minutes.
  • Heat 1/2 inch of vegetable oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Carefully slide one tortilla into the oil and fry until crisp, about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove with thongs and drain on paper towels. Repeat with the remaining tortillas.
  • Preheat a grill or grill pan to medium-high heat. Remove meat from dish and discard marinade. Place steak on the grill, and grill for about 4 to 6 minutes for medium-rare to medium, turning once. Remove from the grill and let meat rest for about 5 minutes. Thinly slice, at a diagonal, into strips.
  • To serve, place fried tortillas or tostadas on a large platter or individual plates. Drain the bean mixture, then spoon some onto the middle of the tortillas. Top with steak slices and the mango salsa.

A few notes:

  • Next time I make this I will break the fried tortilla into pieces. The tortilla was difficult to cut. I think you could even use tortilla chips.
  • I only made half the recipe - it is easy to cut it in half.
  • The marinade is really good. I think you could use it for chicken or any steak. 

Life is good - enjoy!