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

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