Thursday, September 8, 2011

Salmon Tartare

My fascination with all things small began several years ago when I purchased Hors d'Oeuvre at Home With The Culinary Institute of America. A beautiful book of essential techniques and recipes for creating great small bites. This is my go to book when I feed my friends.  I have also found some beautiful recipes for appetizers in "Bon Appetit Magazine". In May of this year they had a simple recipe for salmon tartare.  I have eaten tuna tartare but not salmon. What really caught my eye for this dish is that they suggest you serve it with thick-cut potato chips.

Salmon Tartare
Prep: 40 minutes  Total: 40 minutes
4 servings
Use the freshest wild or farmed salmon for this dish. Chilling it in the freezer for 20 minutes makes it easier to dice.


  • 1 - 8oz. boneless salmon fillet, skinless
  • 1/4 cup finely diced, seeded cucumber
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • 1-1/2 tsp. minced fresh chives
  • 1-1/2 tsp. minced fresh cilantro
  • 1-1/2 tsp. grapeseed or vegetable oil
  • 1-1/2 tsp. minced, seeded jalapeno
  • 1-1/2 tsp. minced shallot
  • 3/4 tsp. minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. Asian sesame oil
  • 1/4 tsp. (scant) lime zest
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Thick-cut potato or tortilla chips
  1. Place salmon on a plate; freeze until well chilled, about 20 minutes
  2. Thinly slice salmon lengthwise into 1/8" wide sheets. Cut each sheet into 1/8"-long strips. Cut strips crosswise into 1/8" cubes. Place salmon in a medium bowl. Add cucumber and the next 9 ingredients and toss to combine. Season tartare to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer tartare to a bowl and serve with chips.
This tartare is really addictive and the chips are ridiculously good. This is chips and dip all grown up. The next time I make this I'm not sharing.

Life if good - enjoy!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Pan-Cooked Summer Squash With Tomatoes and Basil

Although summer is almost over the tomatoes the squashes and the basil  have yet to be told. They may be a bit smaller perhaps a bit uglier but they are still available and oh so tasty.  On August 16, 2011 Martha Rose Shulman published a recipe for The New York Times. Martha is known as a writer of cookbooks about eating well and she does not miss the mark with this lovely and healthy summer dish.

Pan-Cooked Summer Squash With Tomatoes and Basil
Serves: 4 to 6

  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds medium or small zucchini or other summer squash, thinly sliced or diced (depending on what shape squash you use)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pound ripe tomatoes, grated on the large holes of a box grater, or peeled, seeded and diced
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped or slivered fresh basil (to taste)
  1.  Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat in a wide, heavy skillet. Add the zucchini. Cook, stirring or shaking the pan, until the zucchini is lightly seared and beginning to soften, three to five minutes. Remove from the pan, and set aside.
  2. Add the remaining olive oil to the pan, then the garlic. Cook stirring, just until fragrant - less than 30 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes. Cook, stirring, until the tomatoes have begun to cook down, about five minutes. Return the zucchini to the pan, add salt and pepper to taste, and reduce the heat to medium. Cook, stirring often, until the zucchini is tender and translucent and the tomatoes have cooked down to a fragrant sauce. Stir in the basil, and taste and adjust seasonings. Remove from the heat and serve hot, or allow to cool and serve at room temperature.
We ate this as a side dish with chicken. Ms. Shulman suggests it would go well with fish or cooked grains. 

Life is good - enjoy!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Naked Tomato Sauce

Today's post will be different from any that I have done in the past. It won't have a recipe, it won't have a picture and it won't scream "look at what I just cooked"!  Today is a link to one of the most lovely cooking blogs that I have had the honor to follow.   This blog is called smitten kitchen.  It is written by New Yorker Deb Perelman.  Not only is she a delightful writer, who doesn't take her self to seriously, but a fantastic food photographer, wife and fine cook. She describes "[t]he smitten kitchen in its latest physical incarnation as a 80 42 square foot (whimper) circa-1935 sort of half-galley kitchen with a 24 foot footprint, a single counter, tiny stove, checkered floor and a skylight on top a noisy window at the end to the avenue below. When you check out her food you have to be amazed and awed that she can produce what she does in 42 square feet while most of us have monstrous kitchens and can't cook a thing.

Several days ago I received my weekly email from smitten kitchen announcing Deb's latest creation. The blog for the day was for naked tomato sauce.  In her continuous effort to make the best "gravy" for spaghetti she adapts a recipe from a New York City restaurant called Scarpetta. In this post she describes Scarpetta as a restaurant "...that boasts duck and foie gras ravioli, olive oil braised octopus and innumerable four star reviews, it should say something that the spaghetti with tomato and basil is the most famed dish on the menu."

Having never been to Scarpetta I can't say if Deb really nailed their spaghetti with tomato and basil. What I can say is that she has given all of us one of the most delightful, sexy, creamy, and sweet ways to eat spaghetti that I have ever had in my life.

Make this, make this, make this....  It requires no special equipment and a small list of ingredients. When she says the butter is optional I believe she lies.  Here is the link:  You can thank me later.

Life is good - enjoy!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Jerk-Spiced Catfish

"Cuisine At Home" magazine in their August 2011 issue brought tears to this southern girls eyes. Catfish with a kick, grilled not fried.  Granted the best way to eat catfish is soaked in buttermilk, coated in Zatarain's, deep fried, hand dipped in catsup and eaten until you are so stuffed that you realize you have forgotten to touch the obligatory sides of slaw and fries.

Last night, while trying to eat a tad better I decided to give this new way of cooking catfish a try. The New Food Lover's Companion describes Jamaican jerk seasoning as "[a] dry seasoning blend that originated on the Caribbean island after which it's named, and which is used primarily in the preparation of grilled meat. The ingredients can vary, depending on the cook, but Jamaican jerk blend is generally a combination of chiles, thyme, spices (such as cinnamon, ginger, allspice and cloves), garlic and onions."

Once you have your spices mixed and your grill heated this fish takes 6 to 7 minutes from grill to table. What's not to like about that?

Jerk-Spiced Catfish

Store fresh fish on ice. But make sure as the ice melts, that water can drain so it doesn't pool around the fish, water logging it.

Calories: 177
Makes 4 servings
Total time 30 minutes

4 catfish fillets (8 oz each)
1/4 cup Simple Jerk Seasoning

Preheat grill to medium-high. Brush grill grates with oil.
Sprinkle both sides of each fillet with seasoning. Coat fillets with nonstick spray.
Grill fillets, covered, until fish flakes easily with a fork, turning once, 3-4 minutes per side.

Simple Jerk Seasoning
Makes about 1/3 cup

1 Tablespoon each brown sugar, and ground coriander
2 Teaspoons each granulated garlic and dried thyme
1 Teaspoon each kosher salt, ground allspice, and ground ginger
1/2 Teaspoon each ground cinnamon and cayenne pepper

Combine brown sugar, coriander, garlic, thyme, salt, allspice, ginger, cinnamon, and cayenne in a small bowl. Store seasoning in an airtight container for up to 6 months.

Mike and I could hardly speak while eating this. The combination of the spices and brown sugar were different, spicy and savory and the aroma was delightful. I can't wait to try it on chicken and Mike's future holds a pile of jerk ribs. Labor Day weekend here we come!

Life is good - enjoy!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Steak House Salad Pizza with Chunky Blue Cheese Dressing

Since I like food, and especially like looking at pictures of food it generally doesn't take me too long to decide to make something new.  When I came across the picture for a steak house salad pizza I knew I had to have it and to have it right away.  Check this out.
My Version of a Steak House Pizza

I have to say this is one of the best things I've eaten all summer. I'll post the calories at the end, but I have to tell you this pie is worth every one.

Steak House Salad Pizza
Use your favorite homemade pizza dough recipe, or to save time purchase fresh dough from your favorite pizza parlor, or use a prepared pizza crust.

Makes 4 servings
Total Time: 15 minutes

2 New York strip steaks, trimmed (8 oz. each)
Olive oil
Salt & Black Pepper

1 lb. fresh pizza dough, all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella

5 cups chopped romaine lettuce
1 1/2 cups chopped tomato
1/3 cup minced red onion
Chunky Blue Cheese Dressing to taste

Preheat grill to medium-high. Brush grill grate with oil.
Brush steaks with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill steaks, covered, to desired doneness, 3 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer steaks to a cutting board and let rest 5 minutes before thinly slicing against the grain.

Dip dough in flour and roll into a 16" round. 

Lightly brush dough with oil and season with salt. Grill dough covered 2 minutes.

Flip dough, sprinkle on mozzarella, cover, and grill until cheese melts and crust blister and crisps, about 2 minutes.

Top grilled dough with romaine, tomato, onion, and steak slices. Drizzle pizza with chunky Blue Cheese Dressing.

Thank you "Cuisine At Home", Issue No. 88 August 2011 for coming up with this idea. This was so good. The crust was crisp and the toping were some of summers best bounty.  I have to admit I messed up with the directions. I was trying to cook this for the two of us and somehow didn't half the dough. I did use half the ingredients just twice the dough. Oh well this pie has 643 calories per serving with 12 grams of saturated fat and that doesn't cover the fact that we ate twice as much dough as we should have. I guess our bike ride tomorrow will have to be twice as long.

Life is good - enjoy!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Summer Tomato Soups

It's the season for all things tomato.  I can literally eat them at every meal.  There are so many ways to devour them. Unfortunately, in the mid-west, they are only with us for a short time - perhaps that is why they are so special.  On August 5, 2011 Mark Bittman published an article titled "Recipes: The Proper Ways to Treat an Heirloom", in the "New York Times Magazine". Included was a recipe for Cold Cream of Tomato and Peach Soup. Doesn't this sound like nirvana? Cream, tomatoes and peaches - oh my...

I belong to a wine club and last Saturday was Mikes and my night to host.  The hosts, for the evening,  serve  the guests a table full of different appetizers. I wanted to include a cold soup, but I wanted to do something different from a gazpacho having never been a fan of uncooked soup. Mark Bittman came to my rescue.  I normally try to do a recipe just how the cook publishes it, but Mark didn't peel or seed his tomatoes or add any salt, so this one has been adapted to suit my taste.

Cold Cream of Tomato and Peach Soup
Serves 6 in 6oz containers or serves 18 as appetizers in 2oz. shot glasses!

At the start...
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 pounds tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 pound peaches, peeled, pitted and chopped
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Tarragon for garnishing

Thanks to my friend Bonnie for a great photograph

  1. Cook onion in butter for 5 minutes.
  2. Add prepared tomatoes and peaches.
  3. Simmer until the tomatoes break up.
  4. Add cream and salt, puree and chill.
  5. Garnish with chopped tarragon.
This soup is delightful hot or cold with a smooth creamy texture and a touch of sweetness that you don't normally find in a tomato soup.

My next soup comes from the catalogs of Williams-Sonoma. They are  one of my favorite places to find a recipe. I don't think I have ever made anything, that they published, that wasn't good. (Can you imagine if the recipes were bad? How would they ever get you to buy a $245.00 Dutch oven to make tomato soup in?) Every summer I make their Summer Tomato Soup, and every summer I swear I'm going to put some up for the winter. I never do and in January I'm so disappointed when I open up my can of Campbell's Cream of Tomato Soup to accompany my grilled cheese sandwich. So here is their version, - I wouldn't change a thing.

Summer Tomato Soup
Serves 4

At the beginning...
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed and diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup dry vermouth (optional)
  • 2 pounds plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh fines herbs (combination of parsley, chervil, tarragon and chives)
  • Creme fraiche for garnish
In Dutch oven (WS  - "please by ours") over medium-high heat, warm oil. Add onion, fennel and garlic; cook stirring occasionally, until tender, about 10 minutes. Add vermouth; cook until evaporated. Add tomatoes and tomato paste; cook, stirring occasionally until tomatoes begin to bread down, 8-10 minutes. Add broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low; simmer about 20 minutes.

Using an immersion blender (WS - "please by ours"), puree soup, leaving some texture. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in fines herbes just before serving.

Ladle soup into warmed bowls; drizzle with creme fraiche.

I love this soup, and I love the things at Williams-Sonoma. For this recipe my Dutch oven came from Aldi's for $19.95 and my immersion blender from Save your money for their croissants and linens both are to die for.

Life is good - enjoy!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Italian Swiss Chard & Pasta

Swiss Chard in a square foot gardening box

2010 & 2011 tomatoes
Every summer we gardeners face the same problem. The harvest starts coming fast and furious and we can't keep up. We can't put it up or eat it fast enough. I don't even plant that much and I can't keep up.  I have a four foot square box of Swiss chard.  It has fed me now for months and will probably continue to feed me into fall. Mike doesn't really care for it, so it is up to me to consume its goodness. If you haven't ever tasted Swiss chard it reminds me of spinach, it's just as healthy and can be prepared in similar ways. My second problem, from the garden, is the crazy amounts of tomatoes that are ripening each day. We try to consume them while fresh but sometimes I have to add them to my canning tomatoes.  I still have three quarts of canned tomatoes left from 2010 and a bounty of Swiss Chard - so what's a girl going to make for lunch? I always take my recipes from other people but today this one is mine.

Italian Swiss Chard & Pasta
Serves: 4

  • 1 bunch of Swiss Chard
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon + 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 quart chopped tomatoes
  • 4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons of sugar, optional
  • 8 ounces pasta of choice
  • Parmesan cheese to taste or a vegan grated topping
Removing tough stems
  1. Place one teaspoon of olive oil in a sauce pan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook just until you can smell the aroma of the garlic - about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes to the garlic. Add tomato paste and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and let reduce by 1/3 of its original volume to thicken. Add sugar if desired and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
  2. While tomatoes are cooking prepare Swiss Chard by removing the tough stems (I just turn the leaf over and fold the leaf in half exposing the vein and cut a "V" to remove it.) Cut into 1 inch strips and rinse under running water. Spin dry and set aside.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat.  Add Swiss chard, salt, and crushed red pepper flakes. Cook until the Swiss chard has wilted. This can now be set aside while you prepare your pasta.
  4. When your pasta is complete ladle on a large scoop of tomatoes, some Swiss chard and top with the Parmesan. 
This is such a simple, nutritious and clean entree. I ate this for my lunch for four days in a row. It keeps nicely in the refrigerator with a quick reheat of the tomatoes and chard. I did make my pasta fresh each day.

Life is good - enjoy!

PS - Tomato paste hint.  I hate to use a tablespoon or two out of a can of tomato paste and then it goes bad before I can finish it.  Now I purchase the biggest can available and put tablespoon sized dollops onto a parchment covered baking sheet.  I then put them uncovered into the freezer until frozen.  Remove and seal in a Zip Lock and return to the freezer for perfect sized portions anytime you need them.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Watermelon Burgers & Curry Rubbed Sweet Potato Planks

Call me a liberal, and you'd be right.  I actually have The New York Times delivered to my house every Sunday. Mike takes the entire week to read and savor each section. He always begins with the book review.  I normally read only one section - The New York Times Magazine.  I head for the back of the magazine to a section called "EAT".  The article is always about some type of food, a bit of background is given and a recipe as well.  On July 10, 2011 Mark Bittman did an article called "Throw Another Melon on the Barbie". (Mark describes himself as "... an avid home cook since 1968, a journalist for nearly as long (longer if you count [his] high school yearbook!) and a professional food writer since 1980." He is not a chef but has worked/cooked with a number of chefs from around the world, and has written a few cookbooks.) Mark's article arrived, in our driveway, during our let's try to be vegetarians phase of cooking, eating and blogging. The timing couldn't have been better!

All the pictures of the fruits and vegetables looked great. He made portobello's with a Vietnamese-style marinade, curry-rubbed sweet potato planks, teriyaki cabbage steaks, chilli-rubbed jicama steaks with queso fresco, miso-glazed eggplant slices and last but not least watermelon burgers with cheese. I decided to try the sweet potatoes and the burgers.

The problem was we were only about three weeks into the whole vegetarian/vegan lifestyle. We were both beginning to miss meat.  We fell hook, line and sinker for the words "steaks" and "burgers" that were appended to the grilled vegetables and fruit names. The watermelon may take on the shape of a burger but it definitely is not a burger. 

We were so excited to try these burgers until we took the first bite.  I can't tell you what a disappointment they were. They tasted just how you might imagine -  a grilled hot sweet piece of watermelon that dripped its liquid with each bite. I usually don't blog about my failures in the kitchen, but I wanted to get the word out that a watermelon should never ever be heated or grilled. Enjoy it for what it is and get your "burgers" a more conventional way. 
To be fair I wanted to see if any other home cook/blogger had tried to make this recipe. I found a blog called The Nervous Cook that had a totally different opinion. Perhaps he/she is a much better cook than me or I have the palate of a goat!

At the same time we tried Mark Bittman's Curry-Rubbed Sweet-Potato Planks. There were fantastic, easy to prepare and a side dish that is good for you.

Curry-Rubbed Sweet-Potato Planks
Time 40 to 45 Minutes


  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • salt and black pepper
  • 2 pounds sweet potatoes peeled and cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch slices
  • 2 tablespoons neutral oil, like rapeseed or corn
  • Lime wedges for serving
  1. Heat a charcoal or gas grill to moderately high heat, keeping part of the grill cool for indirect grilling, and put the rack about 4 inches from the flame. Combine the curry powder, cumin, coriander and a good sprinkle of salt and pepper in a small bowl. Brush the sweet-potato slices with the oil and rub all over with the spice mixture.
  2. Put the sweet-potato planks on the cool part of the grill and close the grill cover. Cook, checking and turning occasionally, until the flesh is very tender all the way through, 20 to 25 minutes. Move the planks to the hotter part of the grill and cook, turning once or twice, until golden brown on both sides, 3 to 5 minutes. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature with lime wedges.
You may be tempted to leave off the lime wedges thinking of them more as a garnish instead of an ingredient.  The lime adds a tart flavor to the sweetness of the potato that makes the entire dish quite satisfying. These planks are restaurant worthy but simple enough to do at home.

Life is good - enjoy!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Italian Vegetable Ragout

Today makes my twenty-second day of being a vegetarian and part-time vegan. It has been a wonderful adventure with only one meal being a catastrophe. I tried to stay away from processed vegetarian fare using only fresh or canned ingredients.  To help me in my quest for delicious food I purchased Robin Robertson's Fire & Spice.

What a treat! This book has 200 global recipes that are 100% vegan using readily available ingredients. You get to try the spicy cuisines of the U.S., South America, Mexico, the Caribbean, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, India and Asia.  Trying to decide with ones to blog about is difficult because everything we tried was wonderful.

One of our favorites turned out to be the Italian Vegetable Ragout. This is a perfect recipe to make as you bring in your gardens bounty or after a trip to your farmer's market.

Italian Vegetable Ragout


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 2 zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 2 pounds fresh ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon marjoram
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked or 1 (15.5-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth or water
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper (I used 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. pepper)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic. Cover and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Uncover, stir in the wine and cook until it evaporates. Add the zucchini, tomatoes, marjoram, hot pepper flakes, cannellini beans, broth and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and cook over medium heat until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Just before serving, stir in the parsley and basil.

Serves 4

I did not use the olive oil - just sprayed a little vegetable spray in the pan before adding the vegetables. I did not miss it at all or the additional 250 calories it adds to the entree. The recipe easily divides in half. All you need is a crusty loaf of warm Italian bread to make this meal complete.

I'm not sure how long I will be living the vegetarian life, but I do know that for our little planet and for our big bodies it is a great way to eat. The meals I have prepared were delicious and quite inexpensive to make. Summer is a great time to give a vegetarian meal a try. So, on your next meatless Monday give this a try.

Life is good - enjoy!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Summer Cocktails

I've never been much of a cocktail drinker. I'll drink a gin and tonic on occasion as well as a bourbon and coke, but nothing too fancy.  This summer I decided to up my cocktail game and try to make something that was fresh from summers bounty.

The first thing I found was Bobby Flay's Blackberry-Bourbon Iced Tea. This was published in the Food Network Magazine, issue June, 2011.

Blackberry-Bourbon Iced Tea

Bobby Flay's Blackberry-Bourbon Iced Tea
Serves: 4 to 6

  • 3 cups fresh blackberries
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint, plus mint sprigs for garnish
  • 6 good-quality black tea bags
  • Good quality Bourbon, to taste (Bobby likes Woodford Reserve)
  1. Combine the blackberries, sugar and chopped mint in a large bowl and mash with a potato masher or wooden spoon; let sit while making the tea.
  2. While the blackberries are macerating, bring 1-1/2 quarts cold water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Remove from the heat, add the tea bags and let steep for about 3 minutes. Remove the tea bags and pour the tea over the blackberry mixture. Let the mixture sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour to let the flavors meld.
  3. Pour the mixture through a strainer into a pitcher, pressing on the solids. Cover and refrigerate until cold, at least 2 hours. (You can also pour the mixture into a bowl set over an ice bath to cool it faster.)
  4. Serve the blackberry tea over ice in tall glasses and float a shot of bourbon on top of each. Garnish with fresh mint sprigs (like a mint julep).
This was pretty good. Although I didn't think you could taste much of the bourbon - perhaps a touch more would be appropriate here.

My next find comes from the series Mad Men. They did a link on Twitter for their favorite cocktails from the 1960's. I chose their Tom Collins.

Tom Collins 

1 oz fresh lemon juice
1 tsp sugar
1½ oz of gin
Lemon slices

Mix sugar, gin, and juice over ice in mixing glass. Stir, strain in cocktail glass with ice, and top off with soda water. Garnish with lemon slices.
This is basically a lemonade with gin. So light and refreshing. This is the kind of drink that can  sneak up on you so take your time and enjoy.

My last selection. a watermelon vodka slush came from that was submitted by Michael Allbright.

Watermelon Vodka Slush
Prep Time: 10 minutes     Ready IN: 4 hours & 20 minutes     Servings: 4

4 cups watermelon flesh, seeds removed
2 fluid ounces simple syrup
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup vodka
2 fluid ounces melon liqueur
4 twists lemon zest, garnish

In a food processor, puree the watermelon flesh. Pour the pureed watermelon into empty ice cube trays and freeze for at least 4 hours. Also, freeze martini glasses.
In a blender combine the frozen watermelon cubes, simple syrup, lemon juice, vodka and melon liqueur; blend until smooth. Pour into 4 frozen martini glasses and garnish each with a lemon twist.

This was really fun to eat. Although I thought it was a bit bitter. I remedied this by tripling the simple syrup. I also substituted triple sec for the melon liqueur.

I have an ice cream freezer which attaches to my mixer.  I put the pureed watermelon and the rest of the ingredients into it, stirred it up and placed the whole thing in the freezer overnight. The next day I attached it to the mixer and blended it to a beautiful slush mixture. (The alcohol keeps the mixture from freezing solid.)

I also had no idea how to make a lemon zest for the garnish. YouTube came to my rescue with a video, and it turns out that I had the tool I needed for years in my kitchen tool drawer.

Life is good - enjoy!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Art of a Poached Egg

In May of this year I talked about my obsession with the simple poached egg. My problem is I can't make them very well.  I've watched videos of famous chefs and not so famous chefs gently dropping the egg into simmering/swirling vinegar laced water. I found myself truly lacking in water swirling and egg dropping skills. (It kind of like trying to pat your head and rub your tummy at the same time.) Last month "Bon Appetit Magazinecame up with a clever way of microwaving an egg in a glass container - poof a poach egg requiring no skill. I was a failure at this as well. It was either undercooked or overcooked. While visiting my daughter Katie, in Charleston, SC, I discovered a new tool that is fool proof. Katie took me to a store called Charleston Cooks. (This store sells all kinds of high end kitchen tools, barware, cookware and gourmet food. ) There I found a Poach Pod. This is a flexible silicone cooking tool for poaching eggs, baking and molding. It floats in water during cooking. I paid $12.00 for two - has them for a bit less.

To use them you spray each pod with cooking spray and drop the egg into the pod. You then drop them gently into a pan with 1 to 1-1/2 inchs of simmering water.

Cover the pan for about four minutes and you have a perfectly cooked runny poached egg. Now lift the pod out of the water and the egg will slide right out of the pod.

This beautiful egg became part of my breakfast this morning. I made a bowl of creamy grits and topped them with sauteed swiss chard, from my garden and then added the poached egg. This is goodness at its best!

Life is good - enjoy!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Cuban Chimichurri

Cilantro, Basil
Parsley & Rosemary

My summer garden is running wild with copious amounts of fresh herbs. I love this time of year, but I run out of ideas for what I should do with all this goodness. A great idea came out of the June/July 2011 issue of  "Taste of Home". Taste of Home allows home cooks to contribute recipes to their publication. Elaine Sweet from Dallas, Texas contributed this one. She says that "[t]his fresh sauce complements steak wonderfully, but try it on a burger. Your taste buds will thank you!"

Cuban Chimichurri

Prep/Total Time: 20 minutes Yield: 1 cup

  • 7 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1-1/4 cups packed fresh cilantro sprigs
  • 3/4 cup packed fresh parsley sprigs
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lime peel
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • grilled steak
  1. Place garlic in a small food processor; cover and chop. Add the cilantro, parsley, pepper flakes and black pepper; cover and process until finely chopped.
  2. Add the vinegar, lime juice, soy sauce and lime peel. While processing, gradually add oil in a steady stream. Serve with the grilled steak.
I really liked this sauce.  It is spicy with a taste that is clean and bright. I'm thinking that it would be fantastic on scrambled eggs or added to Mexican dishes.

Life is good - enjoy!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Chicken Stroganoff With Tarragon and Mustard

"It just costs too much to eat well". You hear this almost everyday. I know that this is not true. It takes time to eat well, but not near as much money as most folks believe. One of the cheapest and tastiest meats available is the bone in skin on chicken thigh. My local grocery will put them on sell for less than a dollar a pound. That my friends will feed a family of four for less than $1.50. Take that dollar menus! Add some sides and for less than $5.00 everyone in the family eats well. To get the price you must buy the chicken with the skin and bone in tact and butcher it yourself. If your not sure how to do this here is a link to a YouTube video that Chef Paul Prudhomme produced:

The chicken stroganoff with tarragon and mustard uses boneless, skinless chicken thighs. The recipe, courtesy of Iron Chef Cat Cora,  is quick and easy to do for a family supper or can be made ahead of time for a causal company dinner. Just reheat and your good to go.

Chicken Stroganoff with Tarragon and Mustard
Serves 6


  • 1 1/2 ponds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more if needed
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, more if needed
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup shallots
  • 1/4 cup Marsala
  • 3/4 cup Chicken Stock
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh tarragon, plus 6 to 8 sprigs for garnish
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • Buttered parsley noodles, plan noodles or rice

Cut the chicken into 1" chunks. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper.  Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until it is shimmering but not smoking. Add the shallots and cook, stirring, until they're a light golden color, about 3 minutes. Turn the heat to medium-high, add the chicken pieces and cook, stirring, until golden on the outside and almost cooked through, about 5 minutes. Transfer the chicken and the shallots to a plate.

Deglaze the pan by turning the heat to high, pouring in the Marsala, and scraping up all the browned bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Boil until the liquid is reduced by half, about 1 minute. Add the chicken stock, stir, and boil until the liquid begins to look syrupy, about 2 minutes. Reduce the heat and pour any juices that have accumulated on the plate underneath the chicken back into the pan. Add the mustard and the minced tarragon and simmer for 3 minutes. Turn off the heat and whisk in the sour cream, stirring until smooth. Turn the heat to low, taste and add more salt and pepper if necessary.

Add the chicken and shallots to the pan and gently heat over low heat until the stroganoff is warmed through; do not let it boil. Serve over noodles, or rice and garnish each serving with a tarragon sprig.

I made this using Cat Cora's "twist it" suggestion using fresh thyme instead of the tarragon. This is comfort food at it's best - just remember to stock up on chicken thighs when your butcher puts them on sell and you too can eat cheaply and well.

Life is good - enjoy!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Traveling With Yelp

For several years Mike and I have tried to avoid fast food restaurants when traveling around the country.  This is easier said than done. Our best technique was to get off the interstate in a town, at meal time, drive around, spot a restaurant with a lot of cars, go in and enjoy! This worked pretty well as long as the timing was good. Many times we couldn't find anything and would head to the nearest fast food place -  our heads hung in defeat. This is NOT going to happen again thanks to the miracle of new technologies that allow our smart phones to be connected to satellites and an app called Yelp.

A couple of weeks ago we made a weekend trip to Memphis, TN. The mid-way point, lunch time, is Nashville.  We knew we wanted Bar-B-Que but we were crunched for time and didn't want to stray too far from the interstate. Yelp came to our rescue. (If your not familiar with Yelp it is an internet site that lets everyday folks post reviews about local businesses. It is also reachable with an app on your smart phone.) One of the cool parts of the smart phone application is that it has a button called a monocle. You press it and it shows you everything that is in your current location. Restaurants, gas stations, hospitals etc. I'm driving and Mike is searching for lunch.  Just west of Nashville right off the interstate is The Loveless Motel and Cafe. We hit the mother lode for lunch.

The Loveless Motel and Cafe was first stated in 1951. In the beginning it served fried chicken and biscuits in the cafe and had rooms for rent for travelers motoring on Highway 100. Today the Loveless can seat 75 folks for breakfast and supper and the hotel rooms have been converted to shops. The famous biscuits and handmade preserves (which are served with every meal)  are still the biggest draw to the restaurant.

We are quickly shown our table and the miracles begin to happen. Our waitress treated us as if we were old friends - kind, talkative and informative. She was all things southern just the kind of person I love. She immediately brought us the famous biscuits and three small pots of homemade preserves -   blackberry, strawberry and peach. She said "Here you go sweethearts - it's just to take the edge off." I kept tearing off small bites of biscuits trying to decide which preserve I liked the best. The verdict - all!

Mike ordered a half slab of their watermelon ribs. He was a bit leery of ribs with watermelon, but the waitress assured him that she had never had any complaints. The ribs were smoked perfectly, with meat falling from the bones, and the watermelon and bar-b-que sauce was a lovely mixture of sweet and savory. These are not to be missed.

I ordered a bar-b-que sandwich and fries. It was just what I was hoping for. Although after the biscuits and a rib or two of Mikes the french fries went to waste.

While in Memphis my old girlfriends took  me to Huey's. This is the go to place for great burgers and beer.  In 1970 there was only one location now there are four. If you ever visit Memphis the original Huey's is located in mid-town on Madison Avenue.

This is my burger and extra large onion rings. The rings are cut from large red onions, breaded and deep fried. Yummy!  Notice the yellow pic in the center of the burger. One of the traditions at Huey's is to place the pic in a straw and blow/shoot it into their soft ceiling. There are literally thousands of multi colored tooth pics over your head.

On our way home Yelp was again instrumental in our search for all things breakfast. It led us to The Log Cabin Restaurant. (Sorry no link, no website, just good food.) It's right off Interstate I-40 east of Memphis in Buffalo, TN.
Log Cabin Restaurant

Once again the hospitality of the folks in the south really should put the rest of us to shame. I asked where the ladies room was, the waitress rested her hand on my shoulder and said "Why honey, it's right behind the pie case." Pie case need I say more?  Anyway, breakfast was served quickly, piping hot with excellent service.

The home fries were especially good. Usually they are served pan fried but these were deep fried. Crunchy crisp on the outside and tender on the inside. The eggs were basted in real butter and the biscuits here once again handmade.

Thanks to Yelp we found two wonderful places to eat while on a weekend trip.
We're headed to North and South Carolina in a couple of weeks. I can't wait to see what new places await us.

Life is good - enjoy!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Baked Cheese Grits Topped with Flank Steak

Sometimes I get truly obsessed with food. This springs infatuation is with cheese grits, polenta, sauteed baby spinach leaves and poached eggs. I do believe I could eat them all at the same time in the same big bowl. There have been a lot of pictures and recipes for these items in the culinary magazines and on The Food Network. Now I know who to blame for my compulsions.

I had purchased a couple of flank steaks from our local Sam's Club. I was going to make this Peruvian dish made with a spice called aji amarillo. There are no Peruvian grocery stores in Columbus, IN, but I was told that the spice could be obtained in Latin Markets. This is not true. No matter how many times I said [ah-HEE] [ah-mah-REE-oh] the Latinos just shook their heads. No telling what they said about me when I left. So having the steaks and no spice I had to improvise. Thinking about my newest craving for cheesy grits I figured out what I needed to do.

Baked Cheese Grits Topped with Marinated Flank Steak

Baked Cheese Grits
I found this recipe on The Food Network courtesy of Emeril Lagasse
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Serves 6

Here's the finished grits
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter
4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup quick grits (not instant)
1 egg
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup grated Gruyere
1/3 cup grated Parmesan 


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 2-quart casserole with 2 tablespoons of butter.

Combine remaining 1/4 cup butter, water, and salt in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. When mixture comes to a simmer, add the grits, stirring until thoroughly combined. Continue to cook the grits at a simmer, stirring frequently, until thickened, about 15 minutes.

Adding the cheeses
Meanwhile whisk together egg, cream and pepper. Stir into cooked grits along with cheese. Pour mixture into prepared casserole. Bake until set, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand about 5 minutes before serving.

Marinated Flank Steak

This recipe came from
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Ready In: 6 hours and 25 minutes
Serves 6


  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds flank steak


In a medium bowl, mix the oil, soy sauce, vinegar, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, garlic, and ground black pepper. Place meat in a shallow glass dish. Pour marinade over the steak, turning meat to coat thoroughly. Cover, and refrigerate for 6 hours.
Preheat grill for medium-high heat.
Oil the grill grate. Place steaks on the grill, and discard the marinade. Grill meat for 5 minutes per side, or to desired doneness.
Cut steak on the diagonal
Plate the grits and add slices of flank steak cutting it on the diagonal to ensure its tenderness.
Notes:  When I added the egg to the grits and baked it I thought maybe it would set and come out more like a polenta. But it didn't. The grits were creamy and tasted delightful when infused with the Gruyere - a different take on cheese grits normally made with a cheddar. Leftover steak was used for fajitas and leftover grits got topped with a poached egg.
I want to send out a high five to my mother-in-law Betty who taught me this Spring, on a recent visit, that berries are delightful on a bed of baby greens - now if I could learn to make her fantastic pimento cheese!
Life is good - enjoy!