Favorite recipes and stories about home cooking. We love comfort food and dishes that warm the heart. Enjoy!

Friday, December 31, 2010

Foodie Gossip: Top 10 Food Trend Predictions for 2011

Foodie Gossip: Top 10 Food Trend Predictions for 2011: "2011 is just around the corner and I’m always blown away by the culinary strides that have been made over the past year. Extreme cooking and..."

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Roast Duck Breast with Currant-Balsamic Sauce

After watching a cooking show that featured duck breast (kicking myself for not remember which one), I decided to cook up my own duck breast, for the very first time, for Christmas dinner. I didn’t follow the recipe for the show, but memorized the basic steps for the duck breast preparation and got some great sauce advice from my twitter friends (@ChefBevLazo and @burdladii). Keeping their advice in mind, I came up with the following duck breast recipe – which blew the minds of my dinner guests (and that was the best Christmas present ever!).

I served the duck breast over mushroom wild rice and kale greens infused with a blood orange olive oil. This is a super-simple recipe, but tastes incredibly “gourmet”.

Ingredients for Roast Duck Breast with Currant-Balsamic Sauce:
- 6 duck breasts
- Salt (to taste)
- Pepper (to taste)
- 1 Tbs. olive oil
- ½ cup Dried currants
- 1 cup Balsamic vinegar
- 1 Tbs. Salted butter
- 1 Tbs. sugar (or less if you’re not as crazy a sweet/savory fanatic as I am)

- A large Oven-friendly pan
- A small to medium-sized sauce pan

Roast Duck Breast Preparation:
- Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Take a very sharp knife and hash-cut the skin of the duck breasts – avoid cutting into the meat of the duck. Crisscross slicing the skin (down to the meat – about ½ an inch) will help render the fat.
- Salt and pepper both sides of the duck breasts.
- Set the stove top setting to medium low and pre-heat the oven-friendly pan. Drizzle the olive oil in the pan (make sure to swish around for a light coating). You can test when the pan is ready by adding a single drop of water. If it sizzles, you’re ready to add the duck breasts.
- Place the duck breasts in the pan, skin-side down, and let it cook for about 25 minutes or until most of the fat is rendered and the skins are golden-brown.
- Remove the pan w/duck breasts from the stove-top and put it in the oven. Roast the duck breasts for approx. 6 minutes for the perfect medium-rare results. *** Save the fat from the duck breasts (pour into a heat-safe dish). Duck fat is an AMAZING ingredient to use for other dishes, like stove-cooked potatoes or hash browns (I’ll include a recipe for very, very soon).
- After roasting the duck breasts for 6 minutes, take the pan out of the oven and immediately move the duck breasts to a plate, so that they can rest.

Currant-Balsamic Sauce Preparation:
- Pre-heat your sauce pan to medium
- While you’re slow-cooking/searing the duck breast skins, take your sauce pan and add the balsamic vinegar and currants.
- Bring the balsamic vinegar to a light simmer (not boiling) and let it simmer until the liquid is reduced to half (about 10-15 minutes.
- Add the butter and sugar and continue to simmer your sauce until the liquid lightly covers your stirring spoon (make sure it’s not “watery”).
- Remove the sauce from the heat.

Final preparation:
- This part is totally up to you, but I would personally recommend serving your roast duck breast over a bed of wild rice or risotto – or kale/spinach.
- You can slice your duck breast into pieces, as you see if the photo, or serve them whole. Place each duck breast on a plate and drizzle the current-balsamic sauce over the duck.

Voila! Your dish is done.


For a more carb-friendly meal, you can serve the roast duck breasts over the kale/spinach and sub the rice with a side of butternut squash (a fantastic carb-friendly-sub for potato that makes you feel like you’re inhaling carbs, without the punishment).

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Moussaka for the Holidays

I absolutely love moussaka. I used to have it all the time when I lived in NewYork - it was on alomost every diner menu. And it was always done well. The Béchamel topping was always thick and firm, but not dry. But finding moussaka in San Francisco was almost impossible. Even if a restaurant did offer the dish, it was never prepared properly. So, I taught myself to make it - just the way it's served in the Big Apple.

It's inexpensive to make and the layers of seasoned lamb, eggplant and Béchamel sauce creates such a warm and comforting dish. If you have a restricted budget, but still want to enjoy a gourmet meal, make Moussaka! The name alone is empowering.

Ingredients for Eggplant Moussaka
- 2 Lbs ground lamb
- 2 eggplants (sliced into ¼ inch thick pieces)
- 1 white onion, chopped
- 12 oz. tomato sauce
- 1 cup red wine
- 2 Tbs. ground cinnamon
- 1/3 cup finely chopped parsley
- 1 Tbs. olive oil
- 2 cups milk
- 1/3 cup flour
- 3/4 cup of butter
- 1 cup parmesan cheese (grated)
- ½ cup swiss gruyere cheese (grated)
- 3 eggs (beaten)
- Salt and pepper to taste

- Large frying pan
- Medium sauce pan
- Cheese grater
- 2 pyrex dishes, approx. 9x5x5

Lamb preparation:
Set stove top to medium heat. Pre-heat a large pan, add olive oil and combine ground lamb and onions. Break apart the ground lamb as it browns. Once the lamb is browned, add the tomato sauce, red wine, cinnamon and parsley. Stir regularly (not constantly) until the liquid is cooked off (not completely dry, but no running liquid). In the pyrex dishes, start with a bottom layer of eggplant, then a layer of meat, another layer of eggplant and then finish with a layer of the meat. Make sure to firmly press the contents down into the pan. Set the pans aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Béchamel Sauce preparation:
Set stove top to medium heat. Pre-heat the sauce pan. Melt butter. Slowly add the flour and stir/mash to work out all the lumps. Slowly add the milk while stirring to work out any potential lumps. When the milk has been added, the mixture should be smooth. Bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and slowly add the egg, stirring aggressively to ensure the mixture stays smooth and well blended. Reduce the stove to medium low and begin adding the grated cheese, stirring regularly. Once the mixture is combined, let it thicken just a bit (so it’s not runny, but can be poured). Remove from heat and add salt and pepper to taste. Pour the mixture over the lamb and eggplant.

Place the dishes in the oven and cover lightly with tin foil. Let the moussaka bake for approx. 60 minutes. Remove tin foil, increase oven temp to 450 degrees F. and bake for another 15 minutes. Remove the moussaka from the oven and let cool for at least 45 minutes.

Slice the Moussaka like a cake and serve. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Roast Beet Salad with Orange Raspberry Balsamic Vinaigrette

This Roast Beet Salad with Orange Raspberry Balsamic Vinaigrette has been one of my staple dishes for years.

I’ve had friends swear they hate beets with the fiery passion of a thousand suns (I might be embellishing – just a little). Nothing brings me more happiness than to make my friends eat their words – and they did, after trying my roast beet salad. I’m pretty sure it’s because of the dressing, but their plates are always wiped clean in the end. Whatever gets the job done…

Roast Beet Salad Ingredients:
  • 4 medium-sized Beets (Fresh beets are a must. Canned beets are flavorless and disgusting.)
  • 1 Orange
  • Spinach or endive (to cover the bottom of the dish)
  • Crumbled Gorgonzola cheese or Blue cheese
  • Candied Pecans

How to roast beets: Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F. Rinse beets to remove any dirt or debris. Wrap each beet securely in tin foil and place on a cookie sheet. Put the cookie sheet in the oven and roast the beets for 45 minutes (1 hour if the beets are large). Remove the beets from the oven and let them cool for at least 1 hour. Unwrap the beets and peel off the skins. I would suggest wearing rubber gloves to do this so that your hands don’t get stained. If you don’t have rubber gloves, you may want to peel each beet under running water. Beet skins should come off easily.

Slice each beet into eighths. Peel skin off the orange. Slice the orange into 4 quarters. Put one orange slice aside for the dressing. Take each orange wedge and slice into ½ inch thick pieces. Rinse and dry the mixed greens or endive. Line each salad dish with greens and place beets and oranges atop. Add the candied pecans and sprinkle the gorgonzola/blue cheese crumbles evenly over each plate.

Orange Raspberry Balsamic Dressing Ingredients:
  • ¼ cup Raspberry-Balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ cup Blood Orange-infused olive oil (preferred, but regular olive oil works too)
  • 1 Tbs. Champagne mustard (or honey mustard)
  • 1 Tbs. Fresh Orange Juice

In a small Tupperware dish, combine ingredients. Seal the dish with a lid (air-tight) and shake vigorously.

Drizzle the dressing over each salad dish. Voilà la! Your roast beet salad is ready to serve!


Super Cheesy 5 Cheese Mac and Cheese

So rich and creamy, macaroni and cheese will always be the ultimate comfort food. And the bonus? This savory 5-cheese mac and cheese is fairly simple to make and has layers of cheesy flavor in every bite.

Here's the recipe for my Super Cheesy 5 Cheese Mac and Cheese...

- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 garlic clove, chopped finely
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3 ½ cups milk
- 1 ¼ cup lightly packed grated fresh Cheddar cheese
- 1 ¼ cup lightly packed grated Swiss Ementhal cheese
- 1 ¼ cup lightly packed grated Cotswald cheese
- 1 ¼ cup lightly packed grated Swiss Gruyere cheese
- 1 tsp. Tabasco sauce
- 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup almonds, roasted and chopped
- 1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs
- 1-2 strips of crispy-cooked Applewood Bacon (crunched into bits)
- 1 pound short tube-shaped pasta (penne or macaroni)

5 Cheese Mac and Cheese Preparation
Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic; sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add flour; stir until well blended. Slowly whisk in hot milk. Bring to simmer, stirring until sauce thickens and there are no lumps. Remove from heat.

Add the first 4 cheeses and blend into the sauce. Whisk until the sauce is smooth. Season with salt, pepper and Tabasco.

Cook pasta to al dente stage, drain well and add to cheese sauce, blending thoroughly.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Butter bottom and sides of 13x9x2-inch baking dish.

Blend 1/2 cup Parmesan, almonds, bacon and breadcrumbs. Add 1/2 almond mixture to prepared dish. Spread gently to cover bottoms and sides evenly.

Transfer pasta and sauce to prepared dish. Sprinkle remaining almond mixture over the top of the macaroni.

Bake until the top is golden and crunchy and the sauce is bubbling (about 30 min.). Cool for 5-10 minutes.


- This dish may be highly addictive.
- We suggest this dish not be served to anyone with high cholesterol.
- Consumption of this dish may invoke a lethargic reaction.

Do you love bacon? Check out these tasty bacon treats!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Tuxedo Your Turkey

Dear Readers,

It’s been a dream of mine to host Thanksgiving for a very long time. Although I held many parties of 40+ guests in my brownstone apartment in Brooklyn over the years, I never wanted to host Thanksgiving because I think of it as more of a sit down and gather around the table kind of a meal. That meant I could only have 6 other people for the holiday, which is only part of my family. So this year in our new home in the suburbs, around our giant dining room table, my dream finally came true and for the first time I hosted my most treasured holiday in our home.

For the momentous occasion, Tom Turkey had to come to the table in more of a tuxedo than his every other year duds. I wanted to impress, out do myself, have my family and friends rave about this Thanksgiving for years to come. Thanksgivings tend to run together and since this was my first, I wanted it to be extra special. So instead of the typical herb, butter, and chicken stock baste with onions, carrots, and celery stuffed into the turkey cavity, I stepped it up a score and really dressed my bird. This fowl friend was gourmet to the max with a butter, sage, prosciutto, and chopped hazelnut rub with lemon halves and rosemary keeping Tom moist from the inside as they baked in his cavity.

The best part? It was so easy. After making the butter rub, all I had to do was get my fingers under the skin and rub ½ of the spread into the flesh. The other half of the spread was patted all over the outside of the bird on top of the skin. Then to fully dress - or should I say mummify - the turkey, I wrapped the entire thing in slices of prosciutto. 2 whole lemons cut in half baked in the cavity with 4 sprigs of rosemary and a whole large onion quartered. The prosciutto crisped on the outside and locked in the juices making the meat very succulent, even the white parts. The gravy from the drippings was decadent with a nutty herb flavor rising to the surface from the hazelnut and sage.

Is your mouth watering? It should be; it was absolutely phenomenal. It was without a doubt the best turkey I’ve ever tasted and it did come with the rave reviews I was hoping for. Christmas is coming soon and many of you will be adorning your table with another turkey for the holiday. I encourage you to “Tuxedo your Turkey” and give your guests a luscious treat with this Prosciutto-Hazelnut Crusted Turkey on Christmas day.

Truly & tastefully,

Prosciutto-Hazelnut Crusted Turkey (a.k.a. Tuxedo Turkey Recipe)

- 3 sticks of softened butter
- 2 tbs. chopped sage
- 1 lb. prosciutto - half chopped, half in medium thickness slices
- 1/3 cup finely chopped hazelnuts
- 2 large shallots finely chopped
- 5 cloves minced garlic
- 1 ½ tbs. white wine vinegar
- 2 tsp. of ground pepper
- ¾ tsp. kosher salt
- 4 sprigs of rosemary
- 2 whole lemons, halved
- 32- 48 oz. chicken broth
- 1 large cooking onion, quartered

Turkey Prep:
For the butter spread mix softened butter sticks, sage, hazelnuts, garlic, shallots, vinegar, ½ lb. chopped prosciutto, salt, pepper in a bowl. Set aside ¼ cup of the butter rub for the gravy. On your washed and patted dry turkey, start at the neck and slide hand under the skin to loosen the skin from the breast, thighs and legs. Once loose, take ½ of the butter rub that was not set aside and slide it under the skin and into the flesh, this will make the skin look lumpy underneath. The other ½ should be patted onto the skin on the outside. Next wrap the whole turkey with the ½ lb of prosciutto slices. Place halved lemons, sprigs of rosemary, and quartered onion in the turkey cavity.
Set turkey on a rack in a roasting pan and pour 4 cups of chicken broth in the bottom of the pan. Turkey should be placed in preheated oven of 350 degrees and should be cooked for the first hour and a half uncovered. After an hour and a half tent foil over the turkey and secure the foil on the sides of the roasting pan. Cook turkey the remaining time needed for the size of your bird. Baste the bird about every hour until cooking is complete, always remembering to replace the foil after basting. Add more chicken broth to the bottom of the pan if necessary. Once meat thermometer registers 175 degrees in the thickest part of the thigh, the turkey is done. Remove the turkey from the oven, place on a cutting board, peel off crispy prosciutto and place aside, re-tent turkey with foil and let it rest for ½ hour. Then carve and serve!

Place roasting pan with the turkey drippings over two burners of stove, over low heat. Chop up the crispy prosciutto from the outside of the turkey and add it to the pan drippings along with the ¼ cup of butter spread you reserved. Whisk three tablespoons of flour into ½ cup of chicken broth to create a thick smooth liquid. Slowly stir the thick liquid into the roasting pan to start to thicken the juices into gravy. Whisking the flour before adding it prevents lumpy gravy. Add a tablespoon or two of Kitchen Bouquet to the gravy and season with more salt and pepper as needed. If you don’t have enough gravy, you can always add more chicken broth and throw in some more chopped sage for flavor. If 3 tablespoons of flour isn’t enough to thicken the gravy, repeat the whisking process until you have achieved the perfect constancy.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Pumpkin Ravioli with Sage Brown Butter: The Easy Way

I’m going to keep this one simple. It’s amazingly delicious and only takes about 15 minutes to make – unless you decide to make the ravioli from scratch.

- Fresh Pumpkin Ravioli (Butternut Squash Ravioli also works fabulously)
- Fresh Sage Leaves (1 per ravioli)
- Salted Butter (1 Tbs. for every 8-10 ravioli)
- Parmesan Cheese, grated
- Pepper (to taste)

Sage Brown Butter
While the pumpkin raviolis are cooking, in a sauté pan, melt the butter on medium-low heat until it begins to foam and then add the sage leaves. Continue cooking until the butter becomes light brown. This process takes about 5 minutes.

Hopefully you already know how to prep ravioli, but in case you don’t… Fill a pot with 2/3 of water. Place on the stove. Turn the burner on high. Bring water to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and add the ravioli. Boil for approximately 3-5 minutes (or until the ravioli in tender). Remove the pot from the stove and pour the water/ravioli through a strainer. Make sure to strain all of the water from the ravioli.

Plate the pumpkin ravioli. Spoon the butter and sage over the ravioli, sprinkle some parmesan cheese on top and grind a touch of pepper. Voila! A great meal in 15 minutes.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Chocolate Pear Tart Recipe

My mother made this fabulously beautiful tart for Thanksgiving this year and I talked her into sharing the recipe. This is a wonderfully rich dessert that some would say tastes even better the next day. What I would say: “If you want to bake to impress, try out this recipe!”

Here is the recipe for my mother’s Chocolate Pear Tart:

A crisp, cookie-like hazelnut pie shell supports a rich chocolate custard. Carmel-glazed pear slices lie daintily over the surface, creating an all-dressed-up-with-places-to-go appearance.

- 1 ½ cups Whole-Wheat Pastry Flour.
- 1/3 cup Roasted Hazelnuts (chopped)
- 2 tsp. Sugar
- ¼ tsp. Salt
- 6 Tb. Unsalted Butter
- 3 Tb Ice-cold Water.

Chocolate Custard Filling
- 6 oz. best quality Bittersweet Chocolate (melted)
- 2 whole Eggs plus 2 Egg Yolks
- ¼ cup Sugar
- 1 ½ cups Half & Half
- ½ tsp Vanilla

Glazed Pears
- 3 Ripe, but Firm Bosc Pears (peeled, cored, & cut lengthwise in quarters)
- 2 Tb. Unsalted Butter
- 1/3 cup Granulated Sugar
- ¼ tsp. Cinnamon
- Pinch of Allspice

Make chocolate custard the night before (or at least 4 hours before assembling pie).
Custard: Beat eggs until well blended. Beat sugar thoroughly into eggs to make a glossy mixture. Add melted chocolate and mix well. Stir half & half into chocolate mixture and cook in double boiler until custard thickens. Add vanilla. Chill custard.

Prepare pastry shell and bake at 375 until lightly golden. Cool to room temperature.

Make glazed pears: Melt butter in a frying pan and then stir in sugar. When sugar has dissolved, add spices and stir into syrup. Add pears, cut sides up. Simmer at medium-high heat, turning pears over as the syrup begins to caramelize. (Don’t overcook pears.) Cook until pears have given up some of their juices and sugar syrup becomes golden-brown. Cool pears in liquid to room temperature.

Spread custard smoothly in pie shell. Fan pear pieces around circumference of tart. Distribute pear liquid evenly over the top. Bake pie for 15 minutes at 375. Cool pie to room temperature before serving. A dollup of whipped cream adds elegance, but is not necessary.

This Chocolate Pear Tart serves 8-10 people and can be prepared the day before.


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Pecan-Crusted French Toast

This Pecan-Crusted French Toast is one of my favorite brunch dishes, but it’s not for the faint-hearted. Yet making it any other way would not yield the same tasty results.

Pecan-Crusted French Toast Ingredients:
- 2 cups Crushed Glazed Pecans
- 4 Eggs
- ½ cup Cream
- 1 tsp. Cinnamon
- 1 Tbs. Vanilla
- 8 slices Whole Wheat Bread
- 12-14 slices Applewood Bacon
- Grade A Maple Syrup

In a bowl, beat eggs thoroughly. Then mix in cream, vanilla and cinnamon. Pour the mixture into a large Pyrex dish (or any type of dish and will hold the mixture + eight slices of bread). Add bread, making sure to saturate both sides and then place the dish in the fridge. Make sure to flip the bread after 5 minutes to ensure both sides of the bread are equally saturated.

In a frying pan, cook bacon to desired tenderness (or crispiness). Put cooked bacon aside and pour the bacon grease into a small dish. ** Do not completely wipe away grease – you’ll need a nice coat on the pan for your first 2 pieces of French toast (told you this isn’t for the faint-hearted).

Take the bread out of the fridge (the mixture should be fully absorbed at this point). On a large plate, spread out half of the crushed glazed pecans (add more as you go). Take each bread slice and cover both sides thoroughly with the pecans.

Then fry them up, adding more bacon grease as needed – I would suggest keeping the temp to medium/medium-low to keep from burning the pecans.

Add two pieces of pecan-crusted French toast to each plate and garnish with bacon. Drizzle the maple syrup over the French toast, but do so sparingly – the glazed pecans already add a bit of sweetness to this sinful dish.


Do you love bacon? Check out these tasty bacon treats!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Marilyn Monroe: Secret Foodie

Beauty, brains and kitchen skills? Marilyn Monroe is hailed for her kitchen talent by a New York Times article that recreates a stuffing recipe of hers from the recently published autobiography, “Fragments”. So she really did have it all, there is a consensus of Marilyn experts saying, yes, the woman can cook. In a recent auction two cookbooks she owned and personally annotated were sold for $43,700 and a set of yellow Le Creuset pans went up for sale at $25,300.

The recipe Marilyn had written on a “City Title Insurance” letterhead was a stuffing recipe that had quite a mixed bag of ingredients including lots of raisins, hard boiled eggs and different nuts. The suspect it to be a recipe of Italian and San Francisco influence with additions like sourdough and particular spices. The New York Times recreated this dish and struggled with it for two hours. They are the ones that may need to practice their cooking. I wasn’t seduced to recreate it for my Thanksgiving feast, but it definitely was unique and meticulous. In a way it was charming to look at Marilyn’s scribbly writing and misspellings on the recipe. Now I know her and I not only share a sexy hour glass figure, but we both have fairly sloppy handwriting. It’s nice to find that perfection doesn’t seem to be as important when she was alone. The book, “Fragments,” is a collection of her original writing, poems and notes that are copied and re-written for clarity. Check out the book and get a glimpse at her undiscovered side. Marilyn Monroe has now been revealed to be much deeper than any number of photos would let on through this recipe and her other personal writing.

Feeling like a pinup cook yourself? Here is her very own recipe:

Time: 2 hours

No garlic
A 10-ounce loaf sourdough bread
1/2 pound chicken or turkey livers or hearts
1/2 pound ground round or other beef
1 tablespoon cooking oil
4 stalks celery, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
2 cups chopped curly parsley
2 eggs, hard boiled, chopped
1 1/2 cups raisins
1 cup grated Parmesan
1 1/4 cups chopped walnuts, pine nuts or roasted chestnuts, or a combination
2 teaspoons dried crushed rosemary
2 teaspoons dried crushed oregano
2 teaspoons dried crushed thyme
3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon salt-free, garlic-free poultry seasoning (or 1 teaspoon dried sage, 1 teaspoon marjoram, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger and 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg)
1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1 tablespoon pepper.


1. Split the bread loaf in half and soak it in a large bowl of cold water for 15 minutes. Wring out excess water over a colander and shred into pieces.

2. Boil the livers or hearts for 8 minutes in salted water, then chop until no piece is larger than a coffee bean.

3. In a skillet over medium-high heat, brown the ground beef in the oil, stirring occasionally and breaking up the meat, so no piece is larger than a pistachio.

4. In your largest mixing bowl, combine the sourdough, livers, ground beef, celery, onion, parsley, eggs, raisins, Parmesan and nuts, tossing gently with your hands to combine. Whisk the rosemary, oregano, thyme, bay leaves, poultry seasoning, salt and pepper together in a bowl, scatter over the stuffing and toss again with your hands. Taste and adjust for salt. Refrigerate, covered, until ready to use as a stuffing or to bake separately as dressing.

Yield: 20 cups, enough for one large turkey, 2 to 3 geese or 8 chickens.

Recipe & Image from New York Times

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Savory Chicken Cacciatore (Hunters Stew)

This is the familiar rustic Italian stew but with a twist to the preparation that enhances its savory flavor. The flavors come together in a bold yet nonacidic manner leaving you desiring more. The chicken is moist and the vegetables remain intact so you get a delicious flavor combination with every bite.

This dish has nice balance with campfire flavor and tomato oregano undertones, providing a wonderfully delicious meal. It’s another perfect dish for those big get-togethers where your guests can serve themselves and keep going back for more.

Hint: you can maximize your fiber by substituting any of the following for the basic noodles that usually accompany this dish. You can use whole wheat pasta, or for maximum healthy fiber, try barley, groats (complete wheat berry), quinoa, or brown basmati rice. They all complement the dish beautifully.

This dish pairs perfectly with a glass of California Zinfandel or Pinot Noir, Italian Bardolino or Chianti Classico or even a cold ale.

1 ½ -2 ½ pounds chicken (boneless skinless thighs are best for flavor)
1/3 cup red wine (from a bottle you would enjoy drinking)
4 cloves garlic minced
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
½ cup zucchini, sliced
1 cup yellow onion (or use any color), diced
2 oz. tomato paste
2 14.5 oz. cans San Marino tomatoes (diced or whole)
1/2 cup olive oil
1 bay leaf (whole to retrieve when done)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. ground white pepper
2 tsp. dried oregano, crushed
1 tsp. paprika

Side dishes that go well include any of the following:
Pasta, rice, or grain cooked per directions on the package
1 Sweet Dumpling squash (or Butternut)
Green veggies like zucchini or asparagus

Garnish and finish elements:
Finely chopped fresh basil
Baby cherry tomatoes
Pepperoncini (red pepper flakes) for those who like an extra kick
Romano or any grated Italian cheese

Cut the mushrooms, onions, and zucchini then sauté in a dry pan adding a little peanut oil (or high smoke point oil). Once the veggies have sweated add the garlic for two minutes (or so, just don’t overcook/scorch the garlic) then create two clear spots in the pan and add the tomato paste to one and the spices to the other and let bloom. Then add the canned tomatoes stir things up and place the pan in a 400 degree oven. Roast for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and add to the Stock pot Or for the slow cooker method after roasting the veggies add to the slow cooker (set it on low).

While the veggies are roasting fire up your BBQ or grill pan (or use your stock pot to save on dishes to wash; drain the oil leaving a couple of teaspoons in the pot) and brown/sear the meat in a little Olive Oil; do not overcook at this point. Once browned from the grill, remove the meat and add it to your cooking/stock pot or slow cooker. Note: if using stock pot for the cooking prepare the meat first and let rest while cooking the veggies then add to the pot. Cook/simmer for 2 hours or slow cook for 3 hours on low.

Cook the grains or pasta as recommended on the label (use chicken stock instead of water for added flavor). Cook during the final 45 minutes of the stew.

Cook the squash in the oven at 375 degrees…Sweet Dumpling needs to cut in half, remove the seeds, then wrap in foil and place in oven for the final 45 minutes of the stew. If you choose Butternut then cube the squash and place in the pan you removed the veggies from and roast for the final 45 minutes of the stew.

Serve while hot or when you want…can be used as a party dish prepared in advance and re-warmed. Mangia

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Cioppino for Dinner

I cooked up my cioppino dish last night and actually took notes. Writing up the recipe now. Stay tuned for the best cioppino recipe ever...

Yes, I'm tooting my own horn, but I've made this dish at least a hundred times and convinced it's the best one yet.

Friday, October 15, 2010

La Honda Wine & Treats

How lucky am I to have a wonderful mother that invites me to her work event: a "make your own appetizers" + wine tasting event, sponsored by La Honda Winery, CuisineStyle & Morrissey/Compton: and the staff was a MAJOR bonus. Getting to chat up Ken (the founder) & Cynthia Wornick was such a highlight.

And the wines... Oh the wines... My faves were the Chardonnay & Pinot (the Pinot paired w/wasabi peas was a delightful and bizarre discovery, but I tested it on a couple of party-goers and the confirmed the perfect pairing). I ended up buying a couple bottles of each (and a bag of wasabi peas on the way home)….

They split the guests between 4 tables, where they were instructed by the La Honda Winery chefs, including head chef, Pamela Keith, in creating amazing appetizers for all to share. And the winning appetizer? Mozzarella/grape tomatoes:

- Mozzarella Bocconcini
- Fresh Grape Tomatoes
- Pesto Sauce
- Melba Toast

It’s so simple and, yet, so deliciously good! I watched one person take seven off the tray – I would have done the same if I could’ve gotten away with it. I’ll give you the deets on the rest of the apps (description and recipes) in a day or so, with pics.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Authentic Taqueria Tacos – Carne/Carnitas/Polo Asada

These tacos are a tasty meat-treat with all the freshness you crave. They have a nice bite, yet They're not too spicy, with street flavor and citrus undertones, that provides a healthy and delicious meal. You can cook it up and serve it hot and fresh or let it cool to serve on a hot day with an ice-cold beer. It’s a perfect dish for those big get-togethers where your guests can serve themselves and keep going back for more.

This dish pairs perfectly with a glass of homemade Sangria or a cold beer.


1 1/2 pounds steak (flank, skirt, filet) or pork (tenderloin) or chicken (breast)
1/3 cup white vinegar (dry sherry will sub)
1/2 cup soy sauce
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
3 limes, juiced/zest
2 red jalapeno peppers, chopped
1 tablespoon minced onions
1 tablespoon salsa Verde (green tomatillo)
1 teaspoon salsa Brava (hot not mild red salsa unless you are timid)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon ground cumin

Garnish and finish elements

Fresh Tortillas (corn recommended)
Green onions
Sour Cream or Crème Fresh
Hot pepper sauce

Cut the peppers and onions and roast in a dry pan adding a little peanut oil (or high smoke point oil). Once the veggies have sweated a bit add all the dry spices to a side of the pan a let them bloom. Remove from heat and let cool.

Cut the meat into slices about ½ inch (1 cm) thick and give it a few whacks with a mallet or add tenderizer to break up some of the meat fiber.

Once the veggies have cooled put them into a big storage zip-lock bag and add the liquid ingredients, saving the oil for last. Squish & mix the delicious marinade then add the oil and then the meat. Place in the fridge for at least two hours (it’s even better if you leave it overnight).

Meal time…Fire up your BBQ or grill pan and grill the meat to your desired texture. Once done, remove the meat from the pan or grill and let it rest for 10 minutes. While you are grilling, have a friend prepare the garnish, veggies, and sauces. Once the meat has rested, warm the tortillas – not for too long or they’ll become crunchy and unusable.

Viola! Assemble as you like and eat a healthy authentic south of the border style meal. Squeeze a lime over the top to brighten the heat of the tacos.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Jill Silverman Hough’s Lamb Chops with Fig and Orange Tapenade

So, for the past few years, I’ve been really into pairing the perfect wine with the dishes I cook up. Sometimes it’s not always just about the type of wine (Zinfandel, Cabernet, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, etc…) but the specific label and year can have a major impact on the pairing as well.

After recently joining Twitter, I connected with Jill Silverman Hough (
@JillSHough), author of “100 Perfect Pairings: Small Plates to Enjoy with Wines You Love”, and discovered her recipe for Lamb Chops with Fig and Orange Tapenade on her website. I’m a huge fan of lamb and an even bigger fan of sweet & savory dishes: her lamb chop recipe looked so inventive and just jumped off the page. I couldn’t wait to try it out. When I mentioned to Jill that I was going to try it out and blog about it, Jill seemed very happy. However, she warned me that the suggested wine pairing wasn’t quite as perfect as she had hoped… I took that as a challenge!

I decided to invite some close friends over and try it out with 3 wines (all reasonably priced and 2 of them were my staple pairings for most of my red meat dishes). Per Jill’s
blog post, I knew the wine had to have a touch of sweetness to balance out the sweetness of the orange and fig tapenade. So, I selected a Clos du Bois Zinfandel 2006 and Chateau Ste. Michelle “Indian Wells” Cabernet 2008. The latter was definitely a gamble that didn’t pay off (great wine though). But the one that took the prize and had everyone jumping in their seats was the La Cabotte 2008 "Colline" Cotes du Rhone. It added just the perfect balance and enhanced the orange elements on the dish, really making the perfect pairing.

Overall, the dish was absolutely amazing and everyone loved it. I can’t wait to try it again!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Crab Quesadillas with Fresh Mango Salsa

After a very long day’s work, I wanted to make something for dinner that was light, low fat, and uncomplicated. So, I made one of my favorites: Crab Quesadillas with Fresh Mango Salsa. I absolutely love this dish because it’s fun and pretty and the mango salsa is very therapeutic to make (well, I think so anyway). I suggest preparing the mango salsa and hour or so before preparing the crab quesadillas, so that the flavors have a chance to blend. So, here’s the recipe for one of my favorite dishes!

Mango Salsa
  • 2 mangos, diced small
  • 1 red pepper, diced small
  • 1 small red onion, diced small
  • 1 large jalapeno pepper, diced small (remove seeds first)
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • 1 Tbsp. raw sugar
  • ¼ cup of cilantro, chopped
  • For a little extra spice, add a few drops of hot pepper sauce

Combine ingredients in a medium to large bowl and place in your refrigerator.


  • Flour tortillas
  • Swiss Emmental cheese
  • Fresh crab meat
  • Green onion, chopped
I'm assuming I don't need to explain how to make the quesadillas. But if you would like more instruction, just leave me a comment and I'll be happy to walk you through it.

And my suggested pairing? A Sauvignon Blanc – Chalk Hill is usually the one I go with. Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio may also work well, but the Sauvignon Blanc is always my first pick.

Try it out and let me know what you think!

Mango on Foodista

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Steak Dry Rub + Spiced Butternut Squash + Home-style Spinach

Tonight I tried out a new dry rub for a New York Strip Steak. It's a strange combination, but it turned out AMAZINGLY well…

AMAZING Dry Rub for Ribeye or New York Strip Steak:
- Garlic powder
- Rosemary
- Thyme
- Minced cloves
- Chille powder
- Black pepper
- Brown sugar

The side dishes included for tonight’s meal...

Spiced Butternut Squash:- 4 cups of butternut squash, cubed
- Butter
- Garlic (fresh is better, but garlic powder is fine)
- Rosemary
- Garam Masala
- Sea Salt
- Maple Syrup (grade A)

Pre-heat oven to 450°. In a medium-sized Pyrex dish, combine melted butter and seasonings. Add maple syrup and mix thoroughly. Add cubed butternut squash and stir until the butternut squash is completely coated. Total cooking time is about 40 minutes. Make sure to stir after 15 minutes and then another stirring after another 10 minutes.

Home-style Spinach:
- Fresh spinach leaves
- Garlic (fresh)
- Balsamic vinegar
- Olive oil
- Sea salt

In a large pot (to fit uncooked spinach leaves), add ¼ cup of water and a tsp. of sea salt and bring to a boil. Add spinach leaves, reduce heat to medium (low), cover, and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and strain spinach in a colander, making sure to remove all excess liquid (pressing down the a large spoon helps). Put the well-drained cooked spinach back into the pot and add the balsamic vinegar, garlic, and olive oil. Turn the stove on to medium and chop the spinach while cooking off excess liquid.

This meal pairs perfectly with the Clos du Bois Zinfandel 2006.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Retro Cooking

My mother just presented me with two amazing gifts:

The first, my great-grandmother's cook book, The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, by Fannie Merritt Farmer (1928). And... it has notes and clippings inside that include the recipes for my great-aunt's wedding cake and our family recipe for crumpets...

The second, my grandmother's favorite cook book, "A Guide to Good Cooking" (22nd edition that was "designed for today's busy homemakers"), which includes inserts of her personal recipes for walnut fingers and nanaimo bars. Can't wait 'til Christmas, though baking isn't at the top of my list of talents.

But, maybe I should share some of their favorite recipes and you can tell me how they turn out...

Friday, September 3, 2010

Grilled Meat-Fest 2010

Last night I finally nailed down my BBQ'd Babyback Ribs recipe! This time I marinated the ribs in a homemade apple cider vinegar-based BBQ sauce for 48 hours. The ribs cam out juicier and more flavorful than ever - blew my guests away. I also served up grilled shrimp, beef satay and a spiced corn salad.

I've been playing with the corn salad concept for the past couple of days and came up with the following...

Spiced Corn Salad:
4 ears of grilled corn
1 red pepper, diced
1 small red onion, diced
1 jalapeno, diced (but next time I'll use 2)
2 Tbs. of finely chopped cilantro

2 tsp. of apple cider vinegar
4+ tsp. of fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp. of cumin powder
1 Tbsp. of raw sugar
Dash of coarse sea salt & cayenne pepper

Try it out and let me know what you think!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Garlic-Rosemary Sirloin-Tip Steak

Trying to find a decent sirloin-tip steak recipe is impossible!! I searched online and looked at about 20+ “sirloin-tip steak” results and all of them were either for “sirloin-tip roast” recipes (not the same thing) or required the cook to cut their sirloin-tip steak into pieces prior to cooking.

After much frustration, I called a friend, who I consider to be a red-meat specialist, and asked him for advice, which he successfully provided. And here’s the recipe I used (my own concoction) and the steps I took to prepare my sirloin-tip steak (cooking meathod credit goes to my wonderful friend).

- Sirloin-tip steak (1lb 23 ounces, about 1 inch thick)

Dry Rub for Sirloin-tip:
- 1 Tbs. Garlic powder
- 1 Tbs. Dried rosemary
- 1 tsp. Fresh black pepper
- 1 tsp. Brown sugar (to seal in the juices)

Prep at least 7 hours in advanced: Apply a heavy amount of the dry rub to both sides of the steak and wrap tightly and thoroughly in plastic wrap (I used three 16 inch sheets to ensure the juices wouldn’t leek). Put the steak in the fridge for at least 6 hours.

Remove the steak 1 hour before cook-time to bring down to room-temperature. I would suggest using a pan that is compatible both on the stove top and in an oven.

Add sea salt for taste just before searing steak (note: NEVER add salt to a dry rub. Salt extracts moisture from meat). Pre-heat the oven to 375°F

Add about 4 tablespoons of olive oil to your pan and turn heat to medium high. When your pan is heated (use 1 drop of water to test) add your steak to the pan. Sear on high heat about 1 to 1 ½ minutes on the first side. Turn the steak over and sear for approx. 1 minute. Then remove the pan + steak from the stove top and move it to the center of your pre-heated oven. Bake for approx. 15-17 minutes.

Remove the steak from oven and let stand for approx. 10 minutes. Slice thinly and serve, pouring the juices from the steak on top.

I would suggest pairing your sirloin-tip steak with Dry Creek Heritage Zinfandel 2007 – it’s absolutely fabulous!